Hackers loading Facebook with obscene content


THE ACCOUNTS of thousands of Facebook users all over the world have been targeted by unknown hackers, with pornographic images and depictions of acts of extreme violence appearing on users’ timelines and in direct messages sent across the social network. The problem began to be noticed last week but turned from a trickle into a flood over the weekend.

Facebook said yesterday evening it had seen an increase in reports of material that violated its terms of use and it was taking steps to investigate and address the issue. Some Irish users told The Irish Timesthat they had seen a dramatic increase in recent days in the level of pornographic content appearing on their news feeds when they log into the site.

One user from Dublin described the increased level of such material as “unbelievable”. She said it was “not so much on my page, but other eejits liking or commenting on it so it comes up on the news feed”. Another said he had noticed “lots of porn and dating ads disguised as normal products until you click on them and then find strange apps on your Facebook page”.

The increased level of spam appearing on Facebook has been linked to the online hacker group Anonymous, which had previously made threats to target the site over concerns about the manner in which the site distributes and holds personal information and its plans to make money from users.

However, industry sources have cast doubt on whether the group is behind the increased spam as it does not fit with its modus operandi. Spammers have apparently been taking advantage of the new photo-enhanced layout of the site – which means that when “friends” post comments on photographs, the picture is automatically posted on to the news feeds of friends.

The technology site ZDnet said the material was being spread via a “linkspam virus” which tempts members to click on a seemingly innocuous story link.

“It isn’t presently clear precisely how the offending content has been spread – whether users are falling for a clickjacking scheme, are being tagged in content without their knowledge, have poorly chosen privacy settings, have been tricked into installing malicious code, or have fallen victim to another vulnerability inside Facebook itself,” Sophos security expert Graham Cluley said on his blog.

“What’s clear, however, is that mischief-makers are upsetting many Facebook users and making the social networking site far from a family-friendly place.”

Facebook said, “Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us and we are always working to improve our systems to isolate and remove material that violates our terms.”