Don't do scammers' work for them

Graham Clley
Guest columnist Graham Cluley

This is just between me and the almost 500 million Facebook users out there. The rest of you can read something else.

Hi. Now, I know you love Facebook. And I know a large part of your day is spent sharing funny videos of men getting very excitable about double rainbows and ninja cats, or farming your way to fortune in a virtual field, but do you think I could have your attention for a minute?

You see, I'm worried that too many of you are clicking on links without properly thinking about the consequences. And your actions might not only be putting your own computer at risk, they could also be impacting your favourite Facebook friends and acquaintances too.

Take this latest example of a link that we've seen spreading rapidly on Facebook today, for instance:

"OMG!! Guys, you have to see this: This mother went to jail for taking this pic of her son!"

If one of your friends posts that you might well be very tempted to click on the link - but please PLEASE think twice.

You see, similar to the recent "Never Gonna Drink Coca-Cola Again" scam, where the Facebook page that you visit encourages you to share a Facebook page with your online pals, before you are able to view the image of a baby boy.

Watch the following video to see how the scam works:

As you can see, the scammers who started this viral campaign are actually only interested in tricking you to take part in an online survey. The bad guys can make money by directing web traffic to surveys like this, which scoop up your personal information. You shouldn't ever fill in such surveys - even if they do offer you a free iPad or tempt you with what they claim will be a hilarious photograph.

Too many of you haven't gained a "seventh sense" yet to spot dodgy links like this. The sad truth is that criminals don't need to spam out their scams anymore - they can rely on people like you to spread them on their behalf. Far too many people are prepared to endorse and share links on Facebook without properly thinking about what they are doing. In this case, you're doing it before you have any clue about what lies behind the page.

Now, I know not all Facebook users fall for these tricks - but an alarming number seem all too willing to unwittingly oil the wheels of cybercrime.

If you've been unfortunate enough to be hit by this or a similar attack, watch the video to see how to clean-up your news feed and delete entries related to the offending links. Hopefully next time you won't be so quick to click on a link recommended to you by a friend, and will actually be able to tell them to be smarter in future.

Wouldn't it be great if we could spread a security message virally, rather than a malicious one?

Here you go: Sophos's Facebook group warns of emerging threats on Facebook.


Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos website you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley.