Feeds

Online impersonations: no validation required

How do you know what's real and what's not?

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Invading my space

While email allows you to communicate and web pages provide a narrow view of your world, blog services such as MySpace allow you to create an entire online persona. Visitors can see up-to-date content as well as friendship relationships. Unfortunately, as with email, anyone can create a MySpace profile and impersonate anyone else. Politicians, sports figures, and celebrities are frequently impersonated. Even law enforcement and kidnap victims are not immune. Teachers are another common target for MySpace impersonations.

Refuting a MySpace profile

Disabling a MySpace imposter is much more difficult than other online services. While Yahoo!, Google, and even Hushmail have well-defined, single-step processes for reporting abuse, MySpace seems intentionally complicated. I have assisted a half-dozen people with the removal of false MySpace profiles, and none have been painless.

MySpace provides a specific FAQ and request form for reporting abuse and impersonation. They want you to (and I'm not kidding) send them a "salute". The salute is "an image of yourself holding a handwritten sign with the word 'MySpace.com' and your Friend ID". If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the same type of embarrassment used at 419eater.com against advanced fee fraud scammers. There are a lot of problems with this type of authentication:

  • Validation. Just because it is a picture of a person does not mean that it is a picture of you. Anyone can use this approach to terminate anyone's MySpace account. MySpace has no method to tell that the picture is of the actual person.
  • Photoshop. Even if the person in the salute is real, there is no way to tell if the sign is real or if it was added to the picture using Photoshop. I know first-hand that photoshopped images are acceptable for terminating imitation MySpace accounts.
  • Submission. Okay, you have your picture of "you" holding a sign. How do you submit it? The MySpace form only allows text, not pictures or attachments. Furthermore, there is no email address for sending the picture. Yes: first they request an unverifiable image, and then they offer no method for submitting it. What they don't tell you is that if you fill out the text form, then they will respond a few days later with an email where you can send the salute.

If you are the victim of a MySpace impersonation, then you have two options for reporting abuse:

  • Teachers. MySpace has a special submission form for teachers who are being impersonated. This form does not require the submission of a salute. In fact, they have no means to validate that you are even a teacher. You should expect the imposter's account to be terminated within a week.
  • Salute. If you actually do manage to send in a salute, expect the imposter to be around for two to three weeks.

In all cases, you will receive no acknowledgment that the complaint has been received, and no case number for tracking the complaint.

Addressing other blogs

Most bloggers are friendly and want to provide accurate information. If you find that an imposter is posting on someone else's blog, then consider contacting the blog owner. A simple, polite email explaining the situation is usually enough to have an impersonator's comments corrected or removed.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Next page: Can you picture it?

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.