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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