Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

Summary: Facebook says it knows who is behind the coordinated spam attack resulting in links, videos, and images depicting pornography, acts of violence, self-mutilation, and bestiality on the site.

SHARE:

Over the last few days, Facebook users have been experiencing a flood of links, videos, and images depicting pornography, acts of violence, self-mutilation, and bestiality. Facebook confirmed the NSFW problem yesterday morning and then in the afternoon revealed it was hit by a coordinated spam attack leveraging a browser vulnerability. Today, the social networking giant has acknowledged it knows who orchestrated the whole thing and has eliminated most of the spam on its service.

"In addition to the engineering teams that build tools to block spam we also have a dedicated enforcement team that has already identified those responsible and is working with our legal team to ensure appropriate consequences follow," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. He refused to disclose their identities or to discuss what exactly the social networking giant has in store for the individuals.

Three months ago, Spam King Sanford Wallace surrendered to the FBI after being indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose for spamming Facebook. It took over two years, but Facebook eventually put him in his place. Let's hope the company manages to do the same to those behind this attack.

Some have blamed the hacktivist group Anonymous, which was rumored to be planning to take down the social network on November 5. Three months ago, the larger collective group made a point to say it did not support such a takedown operation and in the end it did not take place: the service has remained operational all month.

Facebook is still up and running, but it was exploited in a coordinated way. There is no proof that Anonymous was behind the flood of inappropriate content (normally such an attack would result in confirmation from Anonymous, in some shape or form), but it only takes a few members or ex-members to pull something like this off.

During the attack, some members of the social network saw violent and/or pornographic pictures show up in their News Feeds without their knowledge that they have allegedly Liked. Others were told by their friends that they were sending requests to click on links to videos, sending out bogus chat messages, or writing mass messages and tagged photos leading people to believe they are in the link. If you were affected by this, please see Facebook virus or account hacked? Here's how to fix it.

According to the company, this spam attack all started with users being tricked into pasting and executing malicious JavaScript in their browser's URL bar. This resulted in them unknowingly sharing the offensive content. Palo Alto says it has been shutting down the malicious Pages and accounts that attempt to exploit this flaw and has been giving users guidance on how to protect themselves. Overall, the company claims it has managed to drastically reduce the rate of the attack, but wouldn't share actual numbers.

Users are unsurprisingly outraged, and as is typical with Facebook members, many are already threatening to close their accounts. I personally have not seen any such Facebook activity on my own profile, and neither have my friends. Still, although the service's users complain about a lot of small things, this is not one of them.

In addition to the identities of the perpetrators, Facebook is not sharing other details. We still don't know about the browser vulnerability: how it works exactly and which versions of which browsers are affected. It's also not known how many of the site's 800 million active users were affected or how much inappropriate content was shared. In fact, Facebook has been careful not to divulge too much about the attack, especially not numbers.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Security

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

    'Users are unsurprisingly outraged, and as is typical with Facebook members, many are already threatening to close their accounts.'

    Shouldn't they be outraged that anybody, even Facebook junkies, would be stupid enough to paste the links that caused the problems in the first place?
    zdnet@...
    • Threatening to close their accounts?

      @zdnet@...
      I'll guess that with most of these people, it's like threatening to quit drinking, smokingm or drugs.

      Real easy to say, real hard to do.
      William Farrell
  • Hey...I've got a great solution...

    ...don't use this LAME social networking BS. Then you don't have to worry about the crap that emanates from these dumb sites.
    IT_Fella
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @IT_Fella Yes, Social networks seem to invite stupid. Lot's of different levels of computer users. Plus its a very spreadable form factor too.
      jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @IT_Fella
      And if I go live in a cave I don't have to read your BS post. Hey, maybe I can even use a postal pigeon, that way I won't have any spam! What's your point?
      belli_bettens@...
  • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

    Browser vulnerability (so they say) or a Facebook flaw? Hmmm...
    waterdogz
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @waterdogz
      A user flaw. The starting point was a person having to copy and paste the malicious address into their address bar.
      ImRaptor
      • So?

        @ImRaptor
        So Facebook says... No confirmation on that.
        Sceptical Observer
      • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

        @ImRaptor Which is again a FB flaw! The user is not to blame! Anything you can do against their policy and infringes with FB to do proper business is a flaw, originating from a user or not, does not matter! When I could just upload a certain file into my profile and cripples the whole FB system, it would still be their flaw, although I started it. I would never to so, even if possible, but would not care if it really happens!
        8Limes
      • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

        @ImRaptor totally agree. Morons shouldn't use the internet. it's for big boys.
        Drobilliard
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @waterdogz Click jacking so really it's a user vulnerability mixed with java and flash.
      ruphus1
  • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

    99% of those spam attacks can be avoided if the end user used a little bit of common sense. I have been using Firefox with ad blocks and java blocks for years; yeah internet is a little more boring but I can sit on a infected website for days and nothing with happen to any of my computers. Lets not give Anonymous more credit than they deserve. They go after reported faults in IE after its been reported. Those children could not beat their way out of a wet paper bag if their lives depended on it. These are mostly children with way too much time on their hands and no social skills at all; they sit on a PC all day and purchase programs or look up faults in IE. Yup I'm shaking in my boots. If people would use common sense Anonymous and all the other children would have to find real jobs.... Almost forgot what about those threats to the Cartel releasing their friend. Yeah not only did it not happen haven't heard from the children either since the Cartel play unfairly like Anonymous and the Cartel play for keeps. Thus Anonymous went hiding hoping their friend doesn't release the real names of the children who make up Anonymous. Am I worried about them finding me, nope not the least come get me children.
    guitarest
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @guitarest FB is offering a popular free service and the end user can NOT be held responsible for their security issues, no matter how dumb. And this has nothing to do with ANONYMOUS either. The user is not to blame! You got people with 100+ years of age using it, they would not know better, nor how to avoid it! Have respect! Java blocked? Tells me, you miss a little common sense as well! There is no need for that, when you have common sense!
      8Limes
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @guitarest
      I guarantee you would not post that to any anonymous or hack sites. From basic reading what you said you sound very vulnerable and would be an easy target. You have way to much cockiness which usually means a lack of ral hack knowledge.
      Fletchguy
      • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

        Oh I have, not the least bit scared and I have more expirence on my days off then most here who are pretend techs.
        guitarest
  • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

    Being way closer to the attacks, the rumours are that an estimated 200,000 profiles have been affected in Bangalore itself, spreading through fake links titled like 'Party till the wee hours: 2330 ban lifted'. I have not seen the effects, seeing as I limit my friends list to less than 40 people, most of whom are not from Bangalore. But it does sound serious. Family and friends humiliation etc.
    SuhailS
    • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

      @SuhailS Sounds serious? FB messed up, like many other companies. But after all, it is a free service, and therefore everybody's shit out of luck, no matter how humiliated you got. Even when you reputation would be officially hurt, there is nothing you could do, even if it is not true. Something like this is EXPECTED to happen once a while! Stop whining!
      8Limes
      • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

        @8Limes I meant sounds serious to those affected, not that it is a serious fb flaw. I am a developer. I know shit happens.
        SuhailS
      • RE: Facebook identifies those behind coordinated spam attack

        @8Limes Also, facebook is getting money indirectly through its users. It DOES have a responsibility towards its users. The terms that we agree to are not for nothing, even thought it seems so when people press "I agree".
        SuhailS
  • JAVA SCRIPT AGAIN?

    I banned that stuff from the company computers a couple of years ago.
    mswift@...