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Scammers are attempting to trick prospective marks into opening malware via spam messages falsely warning that their Facebook account is in the process of being closed.

The dodgy email poses as supposed account cancellation confirmation messages that point to a third-party application running on the Facebook platform. The upshot of this is that even though the link doesn't point towards an official Facebook page, it does go to a Facebook.com address, something likely to trip up the unwary.

Surfers who visit the page are asked for permission to allow an unknown Java applet to run on their computer. Just saying "no thanks" fails to stop this request being repeated, a trick designed to bore marks into allowing the applet to run.

The applet generates a false message that users need to update their installation of Adobe Flash to proceed. Users are offered a download posing as Adobe Flash but actually containing a series of malware packages, defined by Sophos as Mal/SpyEye-B and Troj/Agent-WHZ.

The whole ruse is based on the premise that victims will jump through a number of hoops in order to guard against the possibility of a Facebook account getting closed.

"The social engineering being used by the tricksters behind this malware attack is pretty cunning," said Graham Cluley, a senior security consultant at Sophos. "They know that people value their Facebook accounts highly, and many would be upset to lose access to them and the digital connections they have built up with friends and family."

"The hope of the cybercriminals is that victims will blindly agree to whatever the computer tells them to do, in order to 'fix' the account cancellation request," he concludes.

A blog post by Sophos, containing screenshots showing the opening email gambit to the scam as well as depicting how the malicious applet it punts works, can be found here. ®

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