Facebook "friends" submit messages that could be harmful

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Computer repair shops across the Region 8 viewing area told Region 8 News Monday they're seeing an increase in the number of computers infected with "koobface". Koobface is a virus that attacks computer operating systems and searches for personal information after a computer is infected through social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

"We see it here every day with computers that we check in. koobface is a very common virus. Lots of people have it out there," said Chase Gist at Millennium 3.

Gist said one of his friends sent him a message on Facebook. The message mentioned a YouTube video.

"Normally you would get a message within your Facebook or Myspace profile saying something to the effect of hey, come look at yourself on YouTube, you're acting very funny," said Gist. "When you click on that link it shows up and it will not play a video. It asks you to install a piece of software in order to play that video. That's when they get you."

Gist said he thought the majority of computers infected with the virus were people in their early 20's.

"We grew up with computers so we're comfortable with them. The idea of online shopping doesn't scare us. It's a convenience factor that we embrace wholeheartedly," said Gist. "Just because of the exposure factor, you're going to have a higher probability to have things like identity theft and I think it will always be that way."

"It gives them access to passwords, social security numbers, bank accounts, anything they can get their hands on to make money with," said Gist. "Many people just tend to think that they're on my friends list so it must be legitimate, and they know that in order to access their account they have to have a user name and password so they figure anybody else on the other end has had the same thing."
Gist said computer users can protect themselves by using updated anti-virus software and a strong web-browser.

"It's one of those things that can be easily avoided just by asking yourself a couple of questions. Is this somebody who I normally talk to and should there be a YouTube video of me out there somewhere on the internet," said Gist. "The main thing is to make sure that this is somebody that you've had correspondence in the past, it's not just some out of the blue, hey I haven't talked to this person in three years. Any time it's something like hey, install this on your computer, or a money chat where they say I'm stranded in a foreign country, please send $500, it's good to have some sort of outside contact in addition to the Facebook message."

Gist said the virus can spread quickly because people trust what messages their friends send them.

"We have to be a little bit more responsible to who we give our credit card numbers too online or who we think that we're chatting with on the other end," said Gist. "There are some viruses that we'll see a couple of times a week. There are some that we don't see but once a month. Koobface we can point to everyday because just about everybody is on Facebook."

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