Facebook users being targeted by data-thieving software

24 Feb 2009

A misleading message warning Facebook users that there is a problem with their profile is, in fact, an attempt by a third-party software application to recruit more users and – potentially – steal personal information from their profiles.

A senior technology consultant with Sophos has warned that a rogue application called ‘Error Check System’ has been bombarding Facebook users in recent days.

The typical warning reads:

[Name] has faced some errors when checking your profile View The Errors Message

“Of course, there was nothing really wrong with the recipient’s profiles, and the misleading notifications were an attempt by a third-party Facebook application to recruit more users, and, potentially, steal personal information from profiles,” warned Sophos consultant Graham Cluley in a blog.

“I say ‘potentially’ steal personal information because at the moment we haven’t got any evidence that is what the developers of this application were trying to do, rather than use a rather underhand ‘viral’ method of spreading their application and worming itself across the Facebook system.”

Cluley said ‘Error Check System’ is not the only Facebook application to try to increase its popularity by sending messages to users’ friends and family – but it is particularly sneaky in that it presents itself as an error message about the recipient’s profile.

He said that if you have mistakenly installed the ‘Error Check System’ Facebook application, this is how you can remove it:

  1. Click on ‘Applications’
  2. Then click ‘Edit’ in the top, right-hand corner of the Applications pane
  3. Locate ‘Error Check System’, then click the ‘x’ beside it to remove the application
  4. A window will appear confirming this action. Select ‘Remove’ to completely remove the application.

According to Cluley: “This is an important reminder to all Facebook users that they must exercise caution about which third-party applications they install on their profile, and everyone should remember that Facebook does not approve applications before they are made available on its site.

“You really are putting your trust in complete strangers when you add that next application to your Facebook profile,” he warned.

By John Kennedy