Huge 'sexiest video ever' attack hits Facebook

"Stunning" attack targeted Internet Explorer users, planted adware on victims' PCs

A huge attack by a rogue Facebook application last weekend infected users' PCs with popup-spewing adware, a security researcher said Monday.

On Saturday, AVG Technologies received more than 300,000 reports of the malicious Facebook app, said Roger Thompson, AVG's chief research officer. AVG came up with its tally by counting the number of reports from its LinkScanner software, a free browser add-on that detects potentially poisoned pages.

"It was stunning, really, the number," said Thompson in an interview via instant message late Monday. "And stunning that it was not viral or wormy [but that] Facebook did it all by itself."

The volume of reports on Saturday's rogue Facebook software was highest during the nine-hour period between midnight and 9 a.m. Eastern, with spikes of approximately 40,000 per hour coming at 7 a.m. and noon. For the day, AVG received more than 300,000 reports, triple that of AVG's second-most-reported piece of spyware.

According to Thompson, Facebook eradicated the rogue application about 15 hours after the attack started. Facebook's only acknowledgment of the attack came on its security page, where a "Tip of the Week" Monday morning read: "Don't click on suspicious-looking links, even if they've been sent or posted by friends."

But other security firms also noted the attack. Both U.K.-based Sophos and U.S. security company Websense dubbed the attack "Sexiest video ever," based on the message that appeared on Facebook users' walls, seemingly from their Facebook friends.

Clicking on the link lead users to a Facebook application installation screen, where users were asked to allow the software to access their profiles and walls. Once approved, the application claimed that users had to download an updated version of FLV Player, a popular free Windows video player.

The download was nothing of the sort, but instead the notorious Hotbar adware , a toolbar that inserts itself into Internet Explorer, then starts displaying pop-up ads and links.

The attack spread as the malicious Facebook app posted the same "Sexiest video ever" message on the walls of victims' friends.

According to Thompson, the massive attack demonstrates the power of large social networking sites.

"Facebook is very responsive to threats when we identify them, and removing these applications as soon as they find them, but they're still able to generate huge traffic, just because of the viral nature of social networks," he said in a statement earlier Monday. "It is staggering how many threats were propagated before they were stopped."

Criminals have recognized the value of abusing Facebook to spread adware, launch identity theft attacks or plant malware on users' PCs. Kaspersky Lab, for example, recently estimated that almost 6% of all identity theft attacks originated from Facebook in the first three months of the year, putting the site in fourth place behind PayPal, eBay and the London-based bank, HSBC.

"This was the first time since we started monitoring that attacks on a social networking site have been so prolific," Kaspersky's report said.

Websense offers a free tool called Defensio that, among other things, protects Facebook pages against spam, unwanted URLs and malicious content.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?