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As much as Facebook has brought many people from the remotest parts of the world together, connecting them over vast expanses of space and time, the platform has become one of the major distributors for cybercriminals. Their malicious intent is to spread viruses, malware and spyware throughout the abyss that is the internet.

Being able to target over 2 billion users simultaneously is what makes Facebook such a lucrative choice for cybercriminals. A majority of people log into their Facebook accounts, chat with friends, exchange dialogue, make plans, and ultimately stay within the comfortable confines of Facebook’s social network. There is an inherent trust that their information and personal details are secured and protected from any malicious intent.

Malicious software has become so rampant on Facebook that it is now considered a major problem for the company, as well as for security firms, increasing the pressure for them to stay up-to-date with all the new variants and mutations emerging. Phishing scams, fake login sites, keylogger apps and other malicious threats sometimes come from friends and at other times, from the occasional suspicious stranger you have never met. Those are the most common cybersecurity threats that social media sites expose their users to.

Make no mistake; Facebook is not an entirely safe and protected environment. On the contrary, many users believe it is, which makes them more susceptible and vulnerable to cyberattacks. Cybersecurity experts must always anticipate and adapt to any variants. A malicious file that has only recently been designed or developed may very well not be included in the latest definition and version of an antivirus software. Thus if it is not detected, the probability of a user concluding that it is safe to proceed becomes increasingly high.

Frederic Wolens, a spokesperson for Facebook, recently stated that an internal virus scanning system usually removes any infections. However, the key word here remains “usually,” suggesting the system is not altogether fully reliable to spot all malicious content. The majority of malicious files are stored on different servers than those of Facebook, with only the link being provided. Hence it is impossible for Facebook to scan every possible link sent in a network of over 2 billion users.

How Are Facebook Viruses Distributed

You may think that there is an elaborate and laborious process behind the distribution of malicious software throughout Facebook. Quite frankly, it is simple. Hackers spread malicious files disguised as videos or video player updates, as well as photos posted to either users’ walls or in their messages. If the user decides to open the video, updates their video player, or clicks on the photo to open the file, infection becomes a reality.

What Do Facebook Viruses Do and How to Spot Them

Facebook viruses are malicious pieces of software that can hijack your Facebook account in some way, shape, or form. Such viruses can also be continuously perpetuated through multiple social networking websites, and they eventually end up on Facebook.

Here are some of the goals behind such viruses:

  • Virus scams are designed with one thing in mind. They try to get your money and personal information by tricking you into giving up your information through means of deception. Your information can then be used to access your email account banking information and more.
  • Other Facebook viruses install adware or some form of a malicious code on your device. Hence, your browsing experience will be altered and affected via means of harming browser performance. The unsolicited advertisement is another feature of such “viruses,” where the user is inundated with pop-up ads.

The most effective way to protect yourself against malicious files on Facebook is to know what they look like and be able to recognize them. Here are several ways Facebook viruses spread:

Urgent Messages

An urgent message pops up from your friends, distressingly claiming that she has been left stranded in some far-off remote place in the corner of the world. She needs you to send her a specified amount of money, so she can get back home or otherwise get help. Most likely your friend is not stranded, and she is doing just fine. In such cases, it is her computer that has been hijacked and the messages are going out automatically. You should avoid replying or clicking on any links. If, however, you are genuinely concerned, do contact the person via means other than Facebook.

Too Good to Be True

Free iPads? 50% off on RayBan sunglasses? At some point or another, you have seen a link that is trying to lure you into clicking on a link that will grant you a discount voucher with a certain amount on it. Or perhaps your friend has been compromised and shared the link. In any case, do not fall for it! The developers of this type of virus are trying to score affiliate sales through disreputable retailers or to spread the virus further and compromise more accounts.

Suspicious Video Content

“The shocking moment a man was caught committing a crime!” Sound familiar? Many fan pages or Facebook groups try to lure you into joining them to see shocking videos. Essentially, you will be prompted to install an update or software to be able to see the contents. These types of Facebook virus cleverly disguise themselves by displaying a fake thumbnail image of a play button. These “thumbnails” are static images that are meant to trick people into clicking on them, and from then on, they will install the virus on your computer and potentially even hijack your Facebook account.

How to Prevent Infections of Viruses Occurring

Sometimes intrusions inevitably occur, so it is best to learn our lessons, move on, remove the malicious files, and take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Ensure you frequently change your password and that it is sophisticated and secure enough, containing upper and lower case characters in addition to numbers and symbols.
  • Increase your security and privacy settings. You can do this by clicking in the menu next to the “home” button in the top-right corner of the Facebook window. Make sure to block any applications and people that seem suspicious.
  • If you try to install an application that prompts you to log back into Facebook, you are best to close the page and delete the app. It is a method of phishing for passwords and personal information.
  • Activate login approvals by making sure that every new login from a new device will be sent a security code that you must enter to gain access to your account. Essentially, this prevents unauthorized people accessing your account.
  • Make sure you are using good anti-malware/virus software programs to keep an eye on your computer. An antivirus with full real-time protection is recommended on top of running regular system scans.

 

Kristian IlievAbout the Author: Kristian Iliev is a second-year student at The University of Edinburgh studying Social Anthropology and Social Policy. vid enthusiast of cybersecurity, software and anything to do with IT, films and filmmaking, as well as the insides of any watch I can get my hands on. Passionate about politics and the current state of affairs. Books and education are a prerequisite for self-actualization and a healthy lifestyle.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.