Facebook users hit by rogue apps in malware attack

19 May 2010

Adware that uses subterfugue like ‘sexiest video ever’ to entice Facebook members to click is the latest form of rogue anti-spyware. Security player AVG has detected and blocked 300,000 rogue applications in the past few days.

AVG Technologies said that rate was more than three times the rate of the No 2 for the day for rogue anti-spyware.

“This latest issue really underscores how powerful, while at the same time vulnerable, social-networking applications are. This attack was actually stunning in terms of scale,” said Roger Thompson, AVG’s chief research officer.

“Facebook is very responsive to threats when we identify them, and removing these applications as soon as they find them, but they’re still able to generate huge traffic, just because of the viral nature of social networks. It is staggering how many threats were propagated before they were stopped.”

Ironically, the attack, which offers a picture of a girl in a bikini to entice the victim to install an adware-supported viewer, was not viral, according to AVG researchers, and was first seen in different forms last week.

Threat detection

AVG’s system sets servers to alert the research team when certain nefarious behaviours and activities are detected. By 9am EST, AVG’s servers had detected more than 200,000 of this particular threat.

By comparison, the second-highest detection at that same time was about 24,000 of a particular rogue anti-spy, so at one point, this push was nearly 10 times the No 2 detection.

Last week’s rogue push peaked at about 80,000 for the day, and had dwindled to just a couple of hundred per day by Friday, 14 May 2010. At that point, AVG researchers were hopeful that the adware attack would cease; however, all indications point to the fact they were just gearing up for a fresh start …and a powerful one at that.

Thompson added: “Interestingly, they launched it on a Saturday. I guess they figure we don’t watch on the weekend, but malcode researchers are all cut from the same cloth as Inspector Gadget… we’re always on duty.”

AVG said it recognised the power that social networking brings to our professional and personal lives and does not advocate giving up on the technology altogether.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Security firm AVG’s system sets servers to alert its research team when certain nefarious behaviours and activities are detected online

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years