Facebook has become a cesspool of computer viruses, anti-virus vendors say.One out of five Facebook users have been exposed to malware from links in their news streams. Those links will send them to a site that will infect their machines, according to research from security vendor ZoneAlarm.
Attackers have all sorts of reasons for wanting to infect your machine, none of them good. Sophisticated criminal networks are trying to gather as many PCs as they can to become zombies in their botnets. This means that they can get your computer to do things without your knowledge, like:
- Help them gain illegal advertising revenue by running a click-jacking scheme
- Getting the zombies to click on ads placed on their websites. Or they might have your PC help them send spam.
- Have your PC help them compromise more Facebook accounts to post more zombie-gathering viruses.
- They might put a scanner or keylogger on your PC, hoping to discover your passwords when you go to banking or shopping sites.
In the first half of 2011, Windows users downloaded over 10 million viruses onto their machines, Microsoft says, and those are only the ones that Microsoft security software could detect and remove. There’s no telling how many more undetected viruses were successfully installed.
Of those detected viruses, Facebook is increasingly the source, anti-mailware vendors say.
There are ways to protect yourself. One is to simply be aware. Obviously, if the links look weird, like something your friend wouldn’t post, don’t click on it.
Logging into Facebook via the “https” protocol is helpful, too. Type in “https://facebook.com” and bookmark that. The “s” on the end of http stands for “secure” and it validates that this is actually the Facebook site and not some phony trying to send you virus. It also uses encryption, making it harder for someone to spy on your Facebook activities.
Update: ZoneAlarm updated its graphic and we’ve updated this article accordingly.