Feeds

Facebook blocks Secret Crush over adware row

Spurned Zango pleads innocence

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Facebook has blocked the "Secret Crush" widget for violation of its terms of service, following a row about the use of the application to dupe users into downloading adware onto their PCs.

The widget - which poses as a "Secret Crush" request inviting prospective marks to find out which of their friends might have the hots for them - acts as a social worm, prompting users to unwittingly download the infamous Zango adware application, security appliance firm Fortinet warned last week.

Users tempted into installing the application were told they need to invite at least five friends. However, no secret crush is ever revealed. Instead users are directed to an external website which invites Facebook users to download potentially unwanted applications that display pop-up advertising software from Zango.

Zango was established as a rebranding exercise following the 2006 acquisition of Hotbar by 180solutions. The firm publishes Hotbar, Seekmo Search Assistant, and other adware programs of dubious merit.

The name of the Facebook widget was changed from "Secret Crush" to "My Admirer" after news of the threat emerged last week. In a statement, Facebook said it had disabled the application for violating its terms of service.

"Facebook is committed to user safety and security and, to that end, its Terms of Service for developers explicitly state that applications should not use adware and spyware. Users should employ the same precautions while downloading software from Facebook applications that they use when downloading software on their desktop. We have contacted the developers and have disabled the Secret Crush application for violating Facebook Platform Terms of Service," it said.

Fortinet claimed that four per cent of Facebook's users had installed the Secret Crush application by the time it was disabled.

Zango, which disputes the characterisation of its software as potentially unwanted adware, claims these figures are way off the mark and scoffs at suggestions that the developers of Secret Crush have made millions from its affiliate program.

It said ads for its Zango Astrology application included some for Crush Calculator, a subscription horoscope service. "Although we did not purchase this ad directly, it was placed by one of our advertising partners within the Facebook system," it said.

Zango claimed that the Secret Crush application does not surreptitiously install anything, much less its software. "At no point in adding the Secret Crush widget to a Facebook profile does the widget install either spyware or Zango software, or even attempt to do so. Any suggestion that Zango software is being 'secretly installed' is simply not true.

"Moreover, our general security monitoring of the Zango network has shown no abnormal increase in installations – something we would have seen based on the reported usage numbers of the Secret Crush widget."

We put these allegations to Fortinet and were told it stands by its research. "After additional investigation, Fortinet confirms that our research related to the 'Secret Crush' (Facebook Widget) was accurate as of posting our advisory on 2 January," it said.

Fortinet is far from alone in warning that Secret Crush poses an adware risk. Other security vendors including Trend Micro, Sophos, McAfee and Symantec have also posted warnings. A number of these security experts formed a group on Facebook to warn love-hungry social networkers against the application. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.