Vijdan Mohammad Kawoosa
Internet was initially just a communication medium, but has now turned into a giant virtual world that includes sophisticated communication systems as well as e-commerce. However, it may bring in trouble as easily as it is accessible. We now agree that anyone can be an online publisher, but we need to understand that not everyone is a genuine user. Social networking giant Facebook has also become a medium for spreading malicious content. There are numerous people online whose main aim is to hijack Facebook accounts and use them to spread spam.
When buying household products, some of us look for ‘manual’ booklet which teaches us how to use them and how to save ourselves from any trouble while using them. Similarly, internet based services, including social networking websites, have to be used safely so as to prevent any trouble that may arise out of its wrongful usage.
Spam on Facebook mainly involves contacting people with unwanted content, usually advertisements claiming huge benefits. However, as it would not be possible for the miscreants to do it one by one on all accounts, they create malicious software to gain access to individual accounts and post whatever they want and wherever they like. Gaining access to accounts helps them spread the illegitimate content with ease as we tend to believe the spam messages we receive from our friends’ account. Spammers create bad links or malicious software for this job.
Its important to understand the difference between genuine and malicious content. Good pages on Facebook, especially those which are verified, usually share only genuine content. Many of them share information about various offers and discounts, which may be true. However, there are numerous pages and profiles on Facebook which spread spam and a thorough look at their content can very easily indicate their cruel intension.
The spam messages usually look unprofessional and may contain very long links, mix fonts, signs and symbols, etc. Usually following such malicious links makes the software affect our account too. We must be cautious while following links shared by unknown people or the links which look suspicious.
According to Facebook, many scammers try to trick people with fake offers of free, rare, secret or exclusive goods. It asks its users to be aware of messages with misspellings and typos, multiple fonts or oddly-placed accents.
From technical aspect, there are various such spam elements which may affect an account, however, people should be at least aware of malicious content in general so that they can safeguard their accounts.
The miscreants play smart games. In fact, in most cases they take permission from users to post on their behalf, and out of carelessness or greed, the users do not understand the bad intention behind it. For better understanding, let me give an example. Whenever we use an application on Facebook, it asks us to grant it certain permissions which usually include access to friend list or posting on users’ behalf. This is not an issue with genuine applications and certain games, but it is sometimes used for spreading spam.
The spammers usually claim hefty discounts, irresistible offers or extraordinary videos, thereby making people click on their links. It then follows with the permission page wherein the users allow the application to post on their behalf and this is the game changer. Once the malicious application gets required permission, it uses the Facebook account to spread the spam further. What is most horrific is that our friends feel that we have shared the offers with them, but actually the application does that on our behalf, thereby misleading our friends too. This chain continues to grow unless Facebook notices it and destroys the root-cause.
According to Facebook guidelines, its users can do a certain things to keep their account safe. It includes choosing a unique and strong password, not clicking on suspicious links even if they come from a friend or company one knows, looking out for fake pages and applications, not accepting friend request of people one does not know, logging in only through its official url www.facebook.com, updating ones browser whenever an update is available and using anti-virus and anti-malware software.
Facebook also recommends its users to report suspicious spam content or links so that its team could act against it as soon as possible and prevent the spam from affecting more accounts.
I request all genuine Facebook users to help eradicate this menace by sharing this article with their friends so that more and more people become aware and take necessary actions to secure their account.
Author is the founder / editor of JandK Now and a student of journalism and mass communication at Amity University, Noida. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vijdankawoosa, or on twitter @vijdankawoosa