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Spurious Facebook Warning 'Powerful Computer Viruses Named Trojans'

Outline
Facebook message warns users of several supposed Facebook security threats that it claims are powerful computer viruses named "Trojans" that can automatically forward themselves to all your contacts.

Trojan Virus crossword

© Depositphotos.com/ Mariusz Prusaczyk



Brief Analysis
While the message does touch on some real threats, it is highly misleading and ridiculously overblown. It exposes its creator as someone sadly lacking in even a rudimentary knowledge of computer security issues. The message is so dismally rendered that any worthwhile advice it contains is all but drowned in an ALL CAPS maelstrom of breathless nonsense.

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Example
URGENT - DO NOT (!!) OPEN THE PHOTO OF THE GIRL WITH THE DISFIGURED FACE CIRCULATING ON FACEBOOK, OR THE VIDEO THAT SAYS THAT YOU APPEAR ON IT, OR ACCEPT INVITATIONS FROM THE BIRTHDAY CALENDAR...They are POWERFUL COMPUTER VIRUSES named "TROJANS". DO NOT OPEN the video/pic of the girl who commits suicide, or VIDEOS that come and say "FX" (there are several) like the one of the dog with two legs. DO NOT OPEN ANY PAGE THAT SAYS "WHO VISITED YOUR PROFILE". These pages HAVE V-I-R-U-S-E-S that AUTOMATICALLY get FORWARDED TO YOUR CONTACTS... BE CAREFUL ALL!!!!

Detailed Analysis


This message, which is rapidly gaining momentum on Facebook, attempts to warn users about several security issues that they might encounter on the network. The message claims that the threats are powerful computer viruses named "Trojans". According to the message, these " V-I-R-U-S-E-S " get automatically forwarded to your contacts if you come across them.

Some of the threats mentioned in the message are real. However, the message is so confused, misleading and poorly rendered that any merit it has as a warning is all but lost. The person who wrote the message quite obviously has very limited knowledge of the Facebook security threats he or she references or any inkling of the differences between viruses, trojans, rogue apps, phishing scams, or survey scams.

And, the absurdly overblown, ALL CAPS style of the message further erodes its usefulness as a warning. Variations of the threats so artlessly described in the message have been around in various forms for years and new variants continue to appear. Thus, the breathless urgency of the message is unnecessary and counterproductive.

Moreover, viruses and trojans are not the same thing. They are threats that behave quite differently and dealing with them requires quite different strategies.  Nor are trojans by any means something new as implied in the message. And, while some of the threats described in the message do involve malware, others are about getting users to install rogue apps or browser extensions that lead to survey scam websites. Still others may be phishing scams designed to trick users into divulging personal information. None are computer viruses, powerful or otherwise. Nor do the threats described get automatically forwarded to your contacts as claimed.

So, without getting bogged down in individual descriptions of all the perceived – and constantly morphing - threats mentioned in the "warning", fellow Hoax-Slayer David White has neatly summarised the issue thusly:

Someone, in an attempt to identify a few actual items that do expose the user to phishing attempts and rogue apps or browser extensions, came up with an entirely spurious warning that is incorrect on several counts. Toss out all the nonsense about 'viruses' and 'trojans' and anything getting automatically forwarded, and permanently disable that buffoon's caps key, and the legit warning might read something like this:

"You know those posts that include lurid and lascivious videos, or claim you are in a video and you have to click on a link to a page outside of Facebook to see it? Or the invites to things like birthday calendars you don't need because FB already tells you when it's someone's birthday? Or the posts that claim installing an app will tell you who visited your page? Yeah - they're all bogus. Don't click on them. Ever. Thanks."

Thus, in its current form, this lame attempt at a warning is virtually useless and will help nobody. In fact, it is considerably more likely to confuse and alarm recipients than help them stay safe on Facebook.

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Last updated: July 19, 2013
First published: July 19, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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References
The Difference Between a Computer Virus, Worm and Trojan Horse