The New York Times story - "Viruses That Leave Victims Red in the Facebook" - by Brad Stone covers users whose accounts are hijacked when they click on what seem to be inocuous links.
Malicious programs are rampaging through Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, spreading themselves by taking over people’s accounts and sending out messages to all of their friends and followers. The result is that people are inadvertently telling their co-workers and loved ones how to raise their I.Q.’s or make money instantly, or urging them to watch an awesome new video in which they star.
Matt Marquess's Twitter account was hacked, sending followers messages offering a Victoria's Secret gift card. He wasn't aware of it until someone asked him about it. When he logged in, he saw the messages had been going out for five days.
The story covers the humiliation following these attacks. The hackers hope to get referral fees for directing unsuspecting members to disreputable sites.
It seems the perfect scam as so many millions of people are connected and just waiting for them.
How does it happen? Victims lose control of their followers after clicking a link "sent" by a friend (who may have already been hacked and doesn't know it yet). DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINK SENT, EVEN BY A FRIEND.
Hackers look for simple passwords. Marquess says that at the time his password was "abc123." Oy vey, says Tracing the Tribe, which recently revamped passwords.
Hacked victims then send out Tweets of shame and apology to their followers.
There are a number of such dangerous links. One is "Are you in this picture?" If you click on it, your account is no longer under your control.
In the old days, the virus would send a message to your email address book, but anti-virus software thankfully stopped most of that stuff. The new scams cannot be stopped with anti-virus software, according to the story, as "they are not self-contained programs."
The story also says that in the past, someone who caught a virus, took care of it quietly. Today, everyone in the world - or at least your followers and friends - knows instantaneously and the person hacked feels embarassed and silly.
The new question is "who can you trust?" We believe the messages we get from friends are okay, but they aren't, because our friends may have already been hacked.
According to the story, "some 21% of Web users report they've been a target of malicious programs on social networks."
Kaspersky Labs, a Russian security firm, says that on some days, one in 500 links on Twitter point to bad sites that can infect an inadequately protected computer with typical viruses that jam hard drives. Kaspersky says many more links are purely spam, frequently leading to dating sites that pay referral fees for traffic.An Israeli computer developer - see? it isn't just us ordinary people - clicked on something and an image appeared on his Facebook profile and was sent to the news feed of 350 friends.
Tracing the Tribe saw one a few days ago - and deleted it without opening - with the line “Hi, is this you? LOL.” The story detailed a computer expert caught by this one.
Bottom line: Be careful ... very careful! And read the complete story at the link above.