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Official: Facebook filth flood nowt to do with Fawkes virus

Ordinary indecent criminals

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Facebook has blamed a scam that tricks users into pasting rogue code into their browsers for the sudden torrent of filth in users' walls.

Users of the social network were shocked to see pornographic photoshopped images of Justin Bieber, images of an abused dog and other disturbing content on their friends' Walls as a result of the attack, which exploded late on Monday but may have actually begun some days earlier.

Although the origin or purpose of the spam attack remains unclear, Facebook is blaming a "self-XSS vulnerability" that involves tricking users into pasting rogue JavaScript into their browsers. A slightly ambiguously worded statement by the social network, quoted below, implies that the shock image outrage is purely user error rather than a flaw in the web browser software or Facebook's site.

Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us, and we are always working to improve our systems to isolate and remove material that violates our terms. Recently, we experienced a coordinated spam attack that exploited a browser vulnerability. Our efforts have drastically limited the damage caused by this attack, and we are now in the process of investigating to identify those responsible.

During this spam attack users were tricked into pasting and executing malicious javascript in their browser URL bar causing them to unknowingly share this offensive content. Our engineers have been working diligently on this self-XSS vulnerability in the browser. We've built enforcement mechanisms to quickly shut down the malicious Pages and accounts that attempt to exploit it.

We have also been putting those affected through educational checkpoints so they know how to protect themselves. We've put in place backend measures to reduce the rate of these attacks and will continue to iterate on our defences to find new ways to protect people.

One early theory suggested that the Facebook filth flood was linked to a threat last week by a purported member of Anonymous to release a “highly sophisticated” worm (dubbed the Fawkes Virus) onto Facebook. However now even the security firm that most closely tracked this possible threat, Bitdefender, is discounting this speculation.

George Petre, a senior security researcher at Bitdefender, explained that its social networks security app Safego has tackled an increasing number of threats containing porn or other shock images over the last two weeks.

"Since this outbreak followed a relatively quiet period for Facebook threats, and considering the Anonymous video, we wondered if these are related to the Fawkes virus. However, we decided not for a number of reasons: firstly it looks like other Facebook outbreaks. In addition, some of the URLs used to spread this kind of worm contained a domain name related to the idea of shopping (laptop-rental-store.info). These are ordinary scams and we believe Anonymous would use something more sophisticated," he concluded. ®

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