SALT LAKE CITY -- Facebook has been a breeding ground for viral content in the last several days displaying graphic and violent pictures and videos on unsuspecting users’ walls and news feeds.
Spam and viruses are nothing new to Facebook. However, this time around the content was more graphic than ever and effected users at more alarming rates than ever before.
According to ZDnet.com, a technology website, a statement was released Tuesday saying, "Facebook is aware of these reports and we are investigating the issue."
The Facebook spokesperson continued to say “Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us and we are always working to improve our systems to isolate and remove material that violates our terms. We have recently experienced an increase in reports and we are investigating and addressing the issue.”
According to Facebook's Security Page, there are several viruses to be on the lookout for. Koobface is one of the most common forms seen on the social-networking site. It is a computer worm that spreads on Facebook by sending messages and making wall posts on behalf of the infected user. These messages contain a link, which will prompt you to download and install a newer version of Adobe Flash player. However, this download actually contains a malicious file that, once opened, uses your Facebook account to continue posting this malicious link on your behalf, thus spreading the virus. Right now, only Windows users can be infected by Koobface.
Facebook's security page also points out the many "phishing" sites that make their way around to users.
"When criminals gain access to a Facebook account, they usually post spammy comments on friends’ walls, or send spammy messages through inbox or chat," according to the security page. "These messages ask you to click on a link and often try to entice you by claiming there’s a new photo or video of you somewhere on the Internet that you need to check out. The link then takes you to a phishing site that asks you to enter your login information, or a malware site that prompts you to download malicious software."
The issue brings up pressing questions of security settings and Internet safety. What can users do to avoid getting hacked or infected with a virus on Facebook?
1. Change your password.Changing your password is easy and users should change theirs regularly. Go to your account settings from the arrow drop down at the top right of your home page. Click the "edit" button next to "password" and make your changes. Don’t forget to "save."
2. Make sure you are browsing Facebook using a secured server or HTTPS. Just as online banking and shopping websites encrypt your information, Facebook has the ability to do so as well. Many applications and games accessed through Facebook will ask you to turn off your secured browsing, just remember to turn it back on. To change this setting, once again go to your account settings, and click on the "security" tab on the left hand menu. Select the edit button next to "secured browsing" and then check the box for the HTTPS setting.3. Never click on pictures, videos, or links that seem suspicious or too good to be true. Many viruses will come to users in a chat message, private message, or wall post and often times from a Facebook friend, but do not click on it until you verify from that friend who sent it to you.
So what do you do if you see one of these suspicious pictures or links?
1. Report it. If you see a post you believe to be spam or viral, hover your mouse over the right side of the post and a drop down arrow will appear. Once you click the arrow, several options appear including "report as spam". Inside a chat message or private message, the same reporting options are available.
2. Delete the post. If you see a post on your wall, hover to the right side of the post and you will see a tool icon appear. Click it for options to delete the post.
3. Remove unused applications. Clean out your Facebook applications and delete what you are not using. To do this, go to your "account settings," on the left side menu select "apps," Click "edit" next to any application you do not trust or actively use and select "remove app."
Facebook can be a fun and enjoyable environment but if you realize you have been infected with a virus, take the precautions listed above as well as perform a virus scan on your computer. ZDnet.com suggests using Microsoft Security Essentials or a free alternative Avast.
Chanda Gunter is a social media marketing consultant, public speaker, columnist, event planner and teaches several social media seminars and classes monthly. You can reach Chanda at GetNoticed@ChandaGunter.com or www.facebook.com/socialmarketingpro