Malicious software stole thousands of Facebook usernames and passwords, calling into question the social network’s trustworthiness as it becomes a frequent target for malware attacks.
The computer worm Ramnit, which dates back to 2010 and traditionally targets the financial industry, compromised 45,000 sets of Facebook log-in credentials, according to security firm Seculert.
Facebook said most of the compromised logins were outdated, but it still planned to notify affected users. The social media site warned users not to click on strange links, to report suspicious activity on the social network and to become fans of the “Facebook security page” to stay updated.
Nearly all the log-in breaches occurred in the U.K. and France.
The malware attack is the latest in a line of security breaches plaguing the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social media site, further eroding trust in the company as it prepares for its expected $10 billion initial public offering in a few months.
Facebook urges better education and enhanced responsibility on the part of its 800 million users. But, as people increasingly turn to social media sites to share information, malware attacks on social networks will likely increase as well, and Facebook is expected to find ways to tighten security.
E-mail attacks are on the decline, since people aren’t likely to click on a strange link that appears in their inbox. But social media attacks, which come under the guise as being sent from a familiar user, easily slide under users’ radar.
A spam attack last year tricked thousands of Facebook users into clicking on a story posted by a “friend” to access a video or picture. When users clicked the link, they unknowingly installed malware on their browsers and posted pornographic and violent images to their news feeds.
Social network malware attacks often post links on a user’s wall that appear to be from a trusted friend, or infect fake ads with “likes” that appear familiar, making users more likely to view them as safe and click on them. These trends predict future difficulties for Facebook as it looks for ways to keep users on board and grow advertising revenue.
Malware authors also take advantage of users’ tendency to use the same passwords for all their online profiles, making it easy to gain access to reams of private information.
“We suspect that the attackers behind Ramnit are using the stolen credentials to log in to victims’ Facebook accounts and to transmit malicious links to their friends, thereby magnifying the malware’s spread even further,” a Seculert spokesperson said.
As Facebook looks to gain trust and impress potential investors in preparation for the biggest IPO in tech history, it will likely scramble to find better ways to fend off future malware attacks.
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