Monday, January 4, 2010

"Lottery Winning Notification" - - The Biggest Scam of 2009

GREENSBORO — A man with a Jamaican accent delivered some surprising news to Diane Speaker in a Saturday morning phone call three weeks ago.

“He said, 'Are you going to be home within the next three hours?’” Speaker recalled. “And I said, 'Why do you ask?’ He said, 'We would like to stop by with a check for $80,000.’”

Speaker thought it was a joke.

Not a joke, but a scam.

The lottery scam is No. 1 on the top 10 scams that targeted the central part of the state in 2009, according to the Better Business Bureau of Central North Carolina. The organization represents Guilford, Rockingham, Caswell, Alamance and Randolph counties, as well as Thomasville.

The list is based on complaints and calls the office received in the past year, and largely mirrors scams that targeted other parts of the country, said Joan Stanley, director of dispute resolution for the Better Business Bureau.

The lottery scam usually involves potential victims receiving a letter from a sweepstakes such as Publisher’s Clearing House saying they’ve won millions. The recipient is asked to wire money to cover taxes or other fees. The scammers get the fees while the lottery check bounces.

But in Speaker’s case, she received a phone call. Stanley said scammers are using new methods and getting more sophisticated at running the same old scams.

The checks look more authentic, Stanley said, and scammers are even going so far as to include the names of local banks on them, adding to the appearance of authenticity.

Scammers are also teaming up to bilk victims, she said. One man who sought her office for help had wired more than $1,300 to Jamaica in the hopes of receiving $250,000. Stanley said the person who first called the man passed his information on to others. The victim was getting two or three phone calls a day from different scam artists and sent money to them all.

“Once people figure out who a good victim is, they go for it,” Stanley said.

While most of the scams that made the list have been around for some time, some have gotten more popular in the economic downturn, Stanley said. There’s the mortgage and debt restructuring scams, where scammers get desperate individuals to pay huge upfront costs for mortgage and debt relief they never receive. Legitimate consumer credit counselors charge minimal fees for help managing debt, Stanley said.

Speaker didn’t fall prey to the scam artist. Her caller claimed he was authorized by the state to collect $14,000 in taxes on Speaker’s “winnings,” and urged Speaker to use her credit card to pay it.

“I said, 'Sir, we do not have that kind of money,’” Speaker said. “And he hung up.”

The Better Business Bureau helps educate people about scams. The office maintains a national database of accredited businesses. The bureau also has reliability reports on various companies and works with the attorney general’s office to help keep consumers informed about any government action taken against a company for bad business practices.

Stanley tells clients to never give out any personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank name, over the phone. “If people are calling, they’re trying to fish for some stuff,” she said. “They’re trying to get you on the hook.”

List of The Top 10 Rip-offs of 2009 - - Released By Better Business Bureau (BBB)

People suffering in this tough economy were ripe from scam artists in 2009.

The Better Business Bureau released its list of the top 10 rip-offs of 2009 today, and scams attempting to take advantage of the unemployed and others down on their luck were in ample supply.

Following, in no particular order, is BBB’s list of top scams that victimized consumers and small business owners across the U.S. in 2009:

– Acai Supplements and Other “Free” Trial Offers: Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanketed the Internet. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.

— Stimulus/Government Grant Scams: Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.

– Robocalls: Owning a cell phone or having a phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the country put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009. The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire—which wasn’t true—or offered help in reducing the interest rate on their credit card.

– Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam: The victim receives a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publishers Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery claiming that he or she has won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents only a portion of the total winnings. In order to get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers, supposedly to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.

– Job Hunter Scams: Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or Social Security numbers. There are often requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job.

– Google Work from Home Scam: Countless Web sites cropped up that claimed you could learn how to make money from home using Google or Twitter, and offered a free trial of learning materials. Many people thought they were getting a job with Google or Twitter when in, fact, they were being lured into a misleading free-trial offer. They were billed every month for the materials and other mystery charges that added up to hundreds of dollars.

— Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue/Debt Assistance: Hucksters offered to help homeowners stave off foreclosure or get out of credit card debt. Unfortunately, victims are paying hundreds of dollars up front for assistance they need, but never receive.

– Mystery Shopping: Consumers thought that they could make some extra money by becoming a secret shopper and evaluating the customer service of various stores. Victims are asked to evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores, as well as a money wiring service by wiring money back to the scammers. A seemingly real looking check is supposed to cover the costs, but ends up being a fake. Consumers are out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

– Over-Payment Scams: These scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent, as well as sellers who use classified ads or sites like Craigslist. Typically, the scammer pretends to be a customer. The victim receives a check for more than the amount requested. The scammers then ask the victim to deposit the check and wire the extra amount elsewhere, such as to a shipping company. Ultimately though, the check is fake and the victim is really wiring money back to the scammers.

– Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam: Phishing e-mails can take various form, such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or even a friend. Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing e-mail is the same: to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect the victim’s computer with viruses and malware. In addition to phishing e-mails, spam e-mail selling things to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus were particularly rampant in 2009.

Anti-Cyber Crime Efforts - - How Technology Can Help to Trap Cyber Cowboys??

ANDY SMART visits the police headquarters where officers use state-of-the-art equipment to track down paedophiles, fraudsters and other criminals who abuse the latest technologies to enable their crimes.

THE High Tech Crime Unit, based in Mansfield, doesn't have a trophy cabinet for all its successes.

For one thing, there wouldn't be room in the small pair of offices it occupies in a corner of the aptly named Holmes House.

For another, they don't reward successful investigations with cups and medals.

The unit measures its triumphs in headlines – and the file on villains, trapped by digital evidence, is now about an inch thick.

The fate of child pornographers, paedophiles, fraudsters and internet vandals, brought to justice by the dedicated Notts police squad, has been captured in bold, tabloid headlines which sit in the desk of team leader Detective Sergeant Harry Parsonage.

One mind-boggling story catches my eye and gives a hint to the complex work undertaken by the unit.

An angry young man in Doncaster decided to use his computer skills to take revenge on the Nottingham company which sacked him.

"It was the first case of worldwide SMS spamming," said Sgt Parsonage.

"He sent out a text to 36,000 users which said they had won a car, please telephone this number."

But, by hacking into an SMS gateway in New York, the super-nerd was able to trick callers into contacting his old employer – and he brought their switchboard crashing to a halt.

"They were jammed up for a week and lost thousands of pounds in business."

But by delving into the maze of his computer traffic, Harry Parsonage and his team were able to follow the hacker's trail and help bring him to justice.

"He got sent to jail," said the officer, with quiet satisfaction.

Sadly, too many of the unit's investigations fall into a very different category, involving children.

"Around 50-60% of our work involves indecent images. It certainly affects your view of life and interaction with children, even your own children.

"It is quite surprising what you will find. If you can imagine it, you can find it – it is as stark as that."

For that reason, Sgt Parsonage and his team of two detective constables, two civilian examiners and a technician receive mandatory counselling.

It wasn't like that when the Notts force first began targeting computers for evidence of crimes committed back in 1995.


"That was when we first began examining computers with one man attached to the Fraud Squad. It was generally business-related and so the Fraud Squad was the natural place for computer skills.

"That first year, just 12 jobs were submitted in Notts – we are currently at 198 for 2009."

It all sounds so simple. Computers are brought into Holmes House for examination. The unit copies the hard drive but leaves the original untouched. Then the team tease out every vestige of information that has been stored up, searching for vital signs of crime.

"The amount of work is continually growing, becoming more and more complex because there are more and more devices with a digital element – mobile phones, cars, even fridges. Every sort of crime can have a computer element to it – even murder."

The explosion in social networking has simply added to the permutations.

"We look for anyone who has been communicating illegally – via e-mail, Facebook or YouTube. They are traced, arrested and then we can examine their computers," he said.

The recent case of nursery nurse Vanessa George, who transmitted indecent images of children via her mobile telephone to strangers she met on Facebook, including Bulwell woman Angela Allen, was a high-profile example of the work undertaken in Mansfield.

"I don't think people think about the possibility they are leaving such a trail," he said.

Before long, the unit will outgrow its two-room base, jam-packed with sophisticated equipment.

The power, capacity and range of modern computers is constantly increasing and with it the pressure on the unit.

"We face a constant need to keep up to date because every day there is a new piece of software and, for every change, we have to work out what the consequences are."

But all this new technology has to be allied to good old-fashioned police work and a case from 2002 highlights the point.

Greater Manchester police became aware of a series of images circulating on the internet. They depicted the serious sexual and physical abuse of a young girl and officers said they were among the worst they had ever seen.

In the background of a photograph they could see a particular make of computer and a particular printer and they were able to identify the type of camera that had been used.

"It was discovered that only seven people in the UK had that combination – two of them were in Notts," said Sgt Parsonage.

An elderly resident was quickly dismissed from the inquiry but not David Randle from West Bridgford. He had abused a girl then posted her suffering on the web for perverts to look at across the world.

Notts police, working with Greater Manchester detectives, used groundbreaking techniques to trace images transmitted from Randle's home.

They consulted experts including an architect who looked at the design of the property — and even the wallpaper — in order to track down the house from thousands.

Police used images Randle had posted on the internet, from his collection of 110,000 photographs, to pinpoint items in the room where the abuse took place.

Aspects of Randle's computer and printer made it almost unique. Notts police also asked Interpol to help trace the victim's school uniform and discovered it was British-made. The investigation brought down an international paedophile ring and led to arrests across Europe. Randle was jailed for life.

"We did the forensics," said Sgt Parsonage.

It was a complex investigation requiring diligence and sophisticated technology and, he said, spelt out a warning to anyone involved in computer misuse.

"In recent years there has been a great increase in software privacy tools for covering your tracks and, to some degree, they work.

"But," he added, "it is extremely difficult to get rid of all traces of your activity."

Anti-Cyber Crime Efforts - - Cathing Internet/Online Predators

Over the past several years, law enforcement officials in North Dakota have seen a dangerous type of crime grow. Online predators are not only living within the boundaries of our state, but some of those from outside our borders are using the internet to lure children. So, the state`s top cop is helping officers across the state learn how to find, track and prosecute those criminals.

All week long, 30 local, state and federal law enforcement officers will be learning investigative techniques to help them catch predators. And they say this training will help make North Dakota an even safer place to live.

Loralyn Waltz is a sex offender specialist with the North Dakota Department of Corrections. She says learning how to find and prosecute offenders is an important way to keep North Dakota`s children safe. "We have seen that sex offenders are very manipulative and the internet is a highway for them to get right to pornography. That pornography is adult pornography as well as child pornography."

As a parole and probation officer, Waltz is able to conduct searches at any time on criminals, see their computers and cell phones, and says that`s a good way to find out what kind of life an offender is really living, not just what they`re telling officers.

"The only way we can do that is by confronting them, working with treatment staff and getting into their homes and seeing what`s actually going on," said Waltz

There are only four computer forensic scientists in the state, and that`s up from just one a few years ago. But it`s still not nearly enough. That means local law enforcement agencies need to conduct their own computer investigations.

"We need to send the message to the predators that they need to be careful too, because they never know who they might be in contact with, they might be conversing with a cop," said N.D. Attourney General Wayne Stenehjem.

He says when that happens, predators need to know that police are watching, they will get to them and prosecute them with help from this training.

Some who are taking this training say it`s important to hold sex offenders and other criminals accountable for their behavior, and this could be one more way to send them back to court.

"There are predators right here in North Dakota and they are molesting children here in North Dakota," siad Stenehjem. "We need to find them and prosecute them. That`s exactly what this program is designed to do."

Stenehjem says over the past two years, 50 search warrants have resulted in 20 cases of people actively engaged in molesting children.

Stenehjem says one thing investigators are learning are the different ways predators can contact children. He says video games like X-box and Wii have ways to interact with other players, and that can be an opening for predators, as well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Electronic Banking Frauds Sharply Rising Due to Look-Like-Real or Cloned Scam Mails From Cybercriminals

There is concern over the rising cases of fraud in electronic banking in Nigeria. Banks like United Bank for Africa, GT Bank and Zenith, which are among those in the forefront of the competition to make service delivery easy and convenient for their customers have unwittingly gained the attention of the fraudsters.

The bank fraudsters have perfected the scam mails in such a way that the mails look cloned from the real mails from the banks. They come with the logo, appropriate use of banking terminology and exact general style of bank mails, to request unsuspecting bank customers to supply certain information, especially their PIN, for a purported upgrade of the data base. It is all fraud!

We note the efforts by some of the banks, especially GT Bank to educate the public on how to keep their PIN and secure information on their credit cards and use the ATM.

We also note the efforts of Interswitch, the banks switch network to educate the public on the dubious style of such e-mails and electronic banking fraudsters to defraud customers nationwide. We urge other banks to mount a similar awareness campaign to alert the public to the antics of these real and potential electronic banking criminals.

Although cyber fraud is a global phenomenon with hackers and brilliant IT experts focused on infiltrating security networks of various institutions and projects, there is need for a concerted effort to check the drift into criminality in our banks and other institutions.

We note that the US President Barack Obama in appreciation of the menace recently appointed a cyber fraud chief to check hackers infiltrating into strategic military and domestic operations of both private and public institutions in the USA. We think this is a good example to emulate.

This is because with the advent of 24/7 real time online banking, customers now have access to their accounts anytime of the day. Electronic banking products like Stand-alone Automatic Teller machines (ATMs), Internet, Mobile phones, Point of Sale terminals (POS) kiosks have become popular service delivery points in terms of availability and convenience for bank customers.

To make such smooth service delivery sustainable for the mutual benefit of the banks and their customers however, the banks need to do more to ensure security of transactions and safety of their customers’ deposits.

The banks must ensure that their staff are well trained and knowledgeable about electronic banking and products so that they can subsequently educate their customers on how to use such products, and not fall into the hands of mischievous standby helpers who could exploit such ignorance of customers to defraud.

Banks must also monitor their staff to ensure they do not connive with fraudsters within and outside the banks who are knowledgeable about electronic banking and information technology generally to defraud banks and customers.

This is because it has been established that most bank frauds – electronic or otherwise - occur with staff connivance. This thus requires the banks to do a diligent check on the background of bank staff at entry point, especially those to oversee such sensitive sections.

We call on bank management to ensure that they put in place information technology systems and programmes that are flexible, innovative, scalable and secure. They should ensure their IT systems have firewalls and security check points that deter hackers, unauthorised transactions and intruders.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is also affected in the scam mails, should play a greater role in monitoring electronic banking products. The CBN should urgently equip itself in terms of skilled personnel on IT products as it cannot monitor or regulate what it does not understand.

Lastly, we urge all bank customers using banking electronic products to be more vigilant, alert, and master the conditions of usage for any such product they carry in their own interest.

Electronic banking products offer great customer satisfaction in terms of speed, convenience and good customer relations. They also carry great risks for the banks and their customers and all hands must be on deck to check the trend towards fraud.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Teen Charged With Scamming Suncorp Worth of $2 Million

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan. 2 -- An18-year-old Australian college student allegedly overcame online bank security to wire himself $1.8 million from Queensland's biggest bank, authorities said.

Philip Heggie, a business major at Queensland University, appeared in court on New Year's Day charged with fraud and attempted fraud, the Brisbane Courier Mail reported.

Heggie allegedly engineered an online transfer of money from an internal business account at Suncorp Bank into an account he opened under a false name, the newspaper said.

He was arrested when he showed up at a branch of the bank and tried to withdraw $5,000 from the false account, police said.

After being charged, Heggie was released on bail with a full-time curfew condition that he not leave home except when accompanied by his father, the Courier Mail said.

"He needs to have his wings clipped," Magistrate Pam Dowse said. She also banned Heggie from accessing the Internet.

Cyber Security At Stake in 2010 - - Top 10 Security Threats For 2010

Computing is in a state of constant change. Apps are migrating toward the cloud. Mobile devices are changing the way we interact with our machines and the way we connect to networks. Real-time information has become increasingly important. The threats are changing too.

With 2010 freshly upon us, 'tis the season to ponder future threats. Last month's threat of a portly, bearded man entering one's household through a chimney was mitigated by a sufficiently hot flame, but cybercriminals aren't bothered by physical barriers. They can enter computers through network cables or a wireless connection and make off with valuable information.

Defending against such threats may require an investment in security, but for most IT pros, that's preferable to receiving an e-mail from a hacker that reads, "IM IN UR PC STEALIN UR DATA."

While predicting the future too well is self-defeating -- published foreknowledge of a planned attack would lead attackers to try something else -- consideration of past and current trends can offer insight into tomorrow's danger zones.

What follows are a few predictions about what may come in the world of computer security.

1. Spam, Scams Go Social And Realtime

Security researchers at Websense, Breach Security, IBM Internet Security Systems' X-Force, and Symantec concur that cybercriminals will escalate attacks on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, and on real-time social sites like Twitter. With Google and Bing, not to mention Google Wave, integrating realtime features, scammers know that time is increasingly on their side: Often it takes time to recognize a malicious link or file and unless countermeasures are more or less immediate, there will always be at least some victims.

Contrarian view: For those who never really bought into the social network, real-time craze, such dangers offer another reason to hope that the computing world gets its own equivalent of the slow food movement. Speed may be Google's most cherished goal, but it also increases the velocity of risk.

2. Crime Cloud

Security vendors AVG, M86, and RSA foresee criminals attacking cloud services and using them to direct and control attacks. Cybercrime toolkits are already widely used. It's only a small step from there to cybercrime as a service. IBM ISS X-Force researchers expect more "exploits-as-a-service," and that's not a hard call to make when you have Amazon AWS already being used to host a malware command and control server.

Sam Curry, VP product management and strategy at RSA, said, "Expect a lot of attention in 2010 to how risk side [of the cloud] is mitigated."

Contrarian view: While cybercriminals have experimented with services like Google's App Engine to control attacks, the level of oversight at such services, not to mention the fact that payment is usually required, will make the free malware hosting offered by poorly secured Web sites and databases a better deal. Why bother pretending to be a paying customer when you can just break in and plant malware on someone else's machine?

3. Hijacking Trusted Sites For Malware

Breach Security sees continued innovation in efforts to compromise trusted sites and load them up with malware. SQL injection attacks have proven to be spectacularly successful so far, so it's unlikely that will change. For cybercriminals, it will almost always make more sense to have a third-party distributing their malware.

Contrarian view: The pointlessness of blogging will finally dawn on people and, in conjunction with a year of dot-com failures and layoffs, there will be fewer people running Web sites. In addition, the shift toward controlled devices -- mobile phones, tablets, and the like -- and the emergence of Chrome OS netbooks will mean less opportunity for user error. Security thus will improve.

4. Macs (Finally) Compromised In Significant Numbers

Security companies have been salivating at the prospect of malware on Macs for years. In 2010, Websense says, we will see a drive-by exploit that affects Safari under Mac OS X and hackers will pay increased attention to the Mac platform.

Symantec is similarly worried about unprotected Mac users who haven't gotten into the habit of paying $30 a year for antivirus software. Other security companies such as Sophos have been saying as much for years. Zscaler believes Apple's increasingly high profile will force the company to invest more in security as its devices come under more sustained attack. It's almost as if security companies want Apple's machines to be insecure.

Contrarian view: The only people running Mac security software are those who have to do so as a matter of regulatory compliance. That won't change until Windows market share drops below 80% and/or Mac market share exceeds 20%. If there is an exploit that affects Macs widely, it will probably be the result of an Adobe Flash vulnerability.

5. More Poisoned Search Results, Malvertising

Exploiting trust works. Cybercriminals will put more effort into taking advantage of trusted Web sites. They will use search engines and advertisements to infect the unprotected. On this there's considerable agreement: AVG, Websense, and M86 all anticipate continued efforts to subvert search results and exploit interest in breaking news and events.

Perhaps 2010 will be the year a cybercriminal creates a fake outbreak story that gets attention and leads interested parties to malicious Web sites that create a real cyber outbreak.

Contrarian view: Google and Microsoft will partner to keep search and advertising relatively safe, knowing full well that they cannot afford to lose the trust of users. Expect a rogue ad network to be brought down with much fanfare.

6. Bots, Bots, And More Bots

Why bother with cloud-hosted malware when botnets offer the same service for less? Even better for cybercriminals, botnets offer a source of income. For security vendors, that suggests bots will continue to become more sophisticated. Botnets have become the foundation of cybercrime, Symantec claims.

Dan Hubbard, CTO of Websense, said that there has been some good news about bots -- better communication in the security community and with law enforcement, resulting in more arrests and botnet takedowns than in the past.

But because botnets generate cash for criminals, he expects more criminal gangs will choose a path to wealth that's easier than building a botnet: hijacking a botnet operated by a different gang.

That kind of conflict could actually limit botnet growth or at least attract the attention of security experts and law enforcement. Contrarian view: Botnets not only have to defend against security researchers, but against other botnet operators. Websense sees botnet gangs fighting turf wars, similar to the way that the Bredolab botnet shut down the Zeus/Zbot on infected computers.

7. Piracy Gets Riskier

In early December, Microsoft launched a broad effort to reduce software piracy, noting that it has received a rising number of complaints from users who purchased or otherwise obtained pirated versions of Windows.

It seems that counterfeit software is increasingly infected software. IBM Internet Security Systems' X-Force researchers expect that use of pirated software will increasingly lead to malware infection and that users of such software will become the "Typhoid Marys" of the global computing community.

Contrarian view: Will the last user of desktop software please turn out the lights? We're all moving into the cloud where we don't have to worry about a counterfeit, infectious version of Google Apps, at least until someone alters our DNS host file.

8. Mobile Security Becomes Real Issue

"Smartphones such as the iPhone and Android-based handsets, which are used increasingly for business purposes, are essentially miniature personal computers, and in 2010 will face the same types of attacks that target traditional computing," predicts Websense. And the company is not alone in that belief. Practically every security vendor has or is developing a mobile security product or service. As with Macs, the security industry would welcome a new market.

Websense's Hubbard says it will be interesting to see how Apple's closed App Store and Google's more open Android Market compare in terms of mobile malware in 2010.

Contrarian view: The researchers at IBM ISS X-Force believe that attacks on mobile phones will remain scarce. But while network-based attacks on mobile phones may remain relatively rare, physical attacks will rise: Snatch-and-grab attacks are considerably easier than cyberattacks and produce both data and a physical item that can be sold. With unemployment over 10%, unsolicited phone collection could become a growth industry.

9. A Major Insider Theft Scandal Will Surface

Ongoing improvements in network security will encourage organized cybercrime groups to think about the long con. Somewhere next year, expect someone with access to data at a large organization to be caught working for or with a cybercrime group. The Identity Theft Resource Center anticipates a rising number of insider cases because of failure to follow basic workplace security protocols.

Contrarian view: As above, but the organization will be able to hide the incident, at least until 2011. This prediction has the added benefit of being difficult to prove wrong next year.

10. Clickjacking Strikes Back

Zscaler believes that the clickjacking vulnerability -- a way to alter a Web app's user interface to dupe users into clicking on concealed buttons -- will be employed in attacks more frequently. Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO of WhiteHat Security, and Robert "RSnake" Hansen, founder and CEO of SecTheory, disclosed information about the technique in October 2008. While some effort has been made to mitigate the risk of clickjacking, Zscaler says the technique can still be effective, particularly in attacks with a social engineering component.

Contrarian view: Why bother ,when you can just launch a window that displays a fake security scan and get clueless users to pay for fake security software? Ignorance is a vulnerability that isn't easy to patch.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reality of the Message Circulating on the Internet Claiming "WE'RE AGAINST THE 14.99 A MONTH CHARGE FOR FACEBOOK FROM JUNE 30TH 2010"

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

Message warning that a Facebook group that protests against a supposed charge of $14.99 per month for Facebook services has links that point to a malicious website.

In fact, such a Facebook group did exist and at least one link on the group's Facebook page did lead to a webpage that contained malware. The claim that Facebook is about to start charging for services is untrue. This false claim was apparently the bait used to trick people into visiting the bogus group.

The contents of the message are as under:


"WARNING ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Don't go into or open the group "WE'RE AGAINST THE 14.99 A MONTH CHARGE FOR FACEBOOK FROM JUNE 30TH 2010" It has a virus in a link that opens unstoppable windows with horrific images of humans in states of mutilation. Everyone, PLEASE repost.


Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

During December 2009, messages decrying a proposed monthly charge for Facebook users began circulating via Facebook and other means. The messages claimed that Facebook was set to start charging members $14.99 per month from June 2010 and contained a link to a Facebook Group that was supposedly created to protest this charge.

Soon after, counter messages like the one included above also began circulating. These messages warn that the supposed protest group is just a front designed to trick visitors into opening another website that contained malware. The claims in these warning messages are true. The Facebook Group page contained a link to another website that supposedly provided more information about Facebook's intention to charge users. However, clicking the link in fact opened an obnoxious website that attempted to download some form of malware to the visitor's computer. During research for this article, I followed the bogus link and was confronted with a very objectionable web page displaying graphic images of dismembered human bodies. It appeared that hidden scripts on the page began downloading unrequested content. It also attempted to initiate one of the email programs on my computer. Antivirus software installed on my computer detected the illicit download as a malicious visual basic script.

Moreover, the claim that Facebook is intending to charge users for normal Facebook access from June 2010 is untrue. There are no credible reports that indicate that Facebook is intending to start charging its users for basic services. When asked in an April 2009 Business Week interview on whether Facebook plans to charge users, the company's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg noted:
The answer is no, we are not planning on charging a basic fee for our basic services. Once again, that question stems from people thinking we're growing so quickly, we're running out of money. We're growing really quickly, but we can finance that growth. We're not going to charge for our basic services.
Thus, it appears that the perpetrators of this hoax invented a story about a proposed Facebook charge and created a group purportedly protesting against such a charge purely as a means of fooling people into visiting the malware website and possibly infecting their computers.

At the time of writing the bogus Facebook Group had apparently been removed, although the malware website itself was still active. Although this particular fake group has been removed, users should remain vigilant, as malware distributors are likely to employ similar schemes on Facebook and other social networking sites in their constant and ongoing attempts to fool victims into downloading malicious software.
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