August 8, 2008

Virus attacks Facebook and MySpace

A virus has been infecting popular social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, tech experts said yesterday.

On Facebook, the virus is causing email messages to be sent to people on "friends" lists asking them to watch a video supposedly on YouTube. A user has to download what purports to be a plug-in to watch the video.

Tech expert Marc Saltzman said the plug-in is actually a virus.

The bogus email appears to come from a friend, he said.

"Even when you go to the fake site, it has their name and profile picture right on the site, so you really believe it," said Saltzman, a syndicated tech columnist who received several of these emails a few days ago.

"It's affecting what is, arguably, the most popular service among Canadian web surfers. To the best of my knowledge, we haven't really seen a Facebook virus of this magnitude yet," he said.

Security researcher Wayne Blackard said the virus is also infecting MySpace.

"I don't have any specific numbers, but I do expect that it will spread rapidly given the popularity of the social networks," said Blackard of Texas-based TippingPoint Technologies Inc.

On MySpace, the virus is being spread when people contact friends.

Blackard said social networking sites are going to become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks due to their popularity.

"The implicit trust built into the social circle of friends and the willingness to share information with those in the circle will only help the social engineering attacks to succeed," he said in an email.

It's difficult to identify the perpetrators, Blackard said, but the intent seems to be to deliver malware (malicious software) such as spam. Then additional malware can be installed to capture "many types of sensitive information," he added.

Facebook, a privately held company based in Palo Alto, Calif., wasn't immediately available for comment yesterday.

Tech experts say computers must have up-to-date antivirus software to help prevent such attacks.

The virus has been noted by several websites, including Saltzman's blog on MSN, tech blog Pocket-lint and by anti-virus software companies Sophos, Symantec and Kaspersky.

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