Dear Facebook friends: I'm sorry, but I had to kill you

Dear Facebook friends: I'm sorry, but I had to kill you

Summary: My FaceBook account had spiraled out of control, forcing me to take drastic measures.


My FaceBook account had spiraled out of control, forcing me to take drastic measures.

It all started yesterday afternoon. I received a message on my wall that someone was concerned that my FaceBook account had been compromised. Apparently, someone or some THING had invited dozens or maybe even hundreds of my friends to an event using my account. What tipped them off that it might have been compromised? Well ... wait for it...


Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Now, anyone who has met me personally or has seen my full body profile probably realizes I am the last person in the world to be asking people to lose weight -- I'm fat.

Hell, I've been TRYING to lose weight, I've cut out most of the crap and sugar in my diet, I even try to cook some healthy things on my food blog, but I'm not about to go proselytizing to others to go shed the pounds.

I really have no idea how many people I know got invited to this stupid thing. But it was a lot. Surely, it couldn't have been due to my password, because I used a strong mixed alphanumeric password. And I had no FaceBook apps attached to my account other than the basic Twitter feed import. So it either had to be some sort of a bizarre FaceBook virus, like an odd mutation of Koobface that hijacked my browser cookies and went on a diet seminar invitation spree, or something else entirely.

Screw you, Mark Zuckerberg. Drop dead and go to hell. I hope every PC in your organization gets Koobface and every single one of your friends gets invited to a genital herpes seminar. Let's see how you like it.

I won't rule out a brute force attack or a direct compromise of FaceBook either. Whatever it was, I was never able to isolate what did it. Neither Kaspersky nor any anti-malware package running on my Windows 7 system could detect it, nor after scanning every single running Windows machine or virtual instance in my house with every tool in my arsenal.

Certainly, I won't overlook the fact that It could have been a machine at a family member's house or some other place I may have logged in sometime in the past. I seriously doubt it was my new iPad or it originated from my Droid.

Needless to say, I was pissed. I had spent years being extremely careful about my Internet activities, always used virus scanners and firewalls, and for the first time in many years, I got nailed. It was the straw that finally broke the camel's back with FaceBook, which has been getting on my nerves ever since the privacy controls changed and became ever so complicated to adjust and understand.

After doing some ... ahem... advanced remediation on my main PC and resetting all my primary online passwords -- a story I will get to in another blog post -- I started to think about whether or not I should kill my FaceBook account entirely, since clearly this evil diet seminar inviting malware from the ninth circle of hell came about as a result of my FaceBooking activities.

After all, I had accumulated 1,245 "friends", most of which were not actually friends at all, but just names of people who wanted to be my "friend". They were people that followed my blogs, read my articles, or maybe "friended" me because I was "friends" with someone else they had friended.

Only a fraction of these people were folks that I knew, had heard of, had corresponded with, had physically met, or were actually real friends or colleagues.

Stupidly, over a period of about a year or so, I accepted all friend requests, because I wanted to be nice. I figured it was good Social Networking etiquette. Whatever the hell that means. Clearly, if you collect a lot of friends, you're a big Social Networking gantseh macher, right?

Well, when you collect a ton of friends, there's... obligations. You have to sort them into groups, otherwise you don't know what's going on anymore, because the feed becomes too complicated to look at. And of course, I didn't do this. I got sloppy. It was one giant feed and I never knew what was going on, I just looked at posts on my own Wall, because that's all my ADD brain could handle.

In addition to establishing basic organizational groupings for friends, you also have to occasionally INTERACT with "friends" or they feel neglected. They fling all sorts of invites and crap and causes and inane games (Farmville, Mafia Wars... et cetera) and other mind-numbing things at you.

Eventually, it becomes a complete and utter mess, and managing your FaceBook profile becomes a job in and of itself. I didn't want another job. I already had two. No, three.

I  considered the profile deletion option. Strongly. And then I thought about the impact of that, and decided to compromise. I would delete anyone who's name I didn't recognize, and I would create a new fan page for those regular folks who wanted to make contact with me by virtue of following my writing and other professional and extracurricular activities.

For those folks that I would retain, I would categorize them into three groups -- "Core", for the real life friends and important people in my life, and work associates and the two industries that I follow, "Technology" and "Food". This way I'll actually get some benefit out of what shows up in my news feed.

So I sat down to prune. I started with 1,245 people. It took me a few hours. As of this writing, I'm down to 569, and I suspect there will be more head lopping over the next several days. It's also possible that in my zeal to simplify my online presence I probably zapped a few legit colleagues in the process. If you're one of those people, I deeply apologize -- you know how to reach me and I'll gladly add you back.

Has an out-of-control FaceBook profile caused you to prune your "Friends" down to who was really important to you? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: PCs, Apps, IT Employment, Security, Operating Systems, Networking, Malware, Health, Browser, Windows


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • I had a friend who's account

    spammed me with that one too.

    I think the problem is the wide availability people can write whatever they want for a FB app, and is only killed once someone reports a problem.

    One of the reasons I chose FB over Myspace, and the biggest reason, was the low risk of getting pwned. But as everything is reactionary, I have take proactive measures to kind of protect my account.

    I first of all ignore all of the farm apps, and whatever else, save for Mafia Wars, I do waste 15-20 per day on that stupid app, usually during commercials while watching CNN, or if it is a boring story, whatever may be the case.

    I am also not a FB wh()re. I don't add people who I have no idea who in tarnation they are. If I have never attended a school, training, or have worked with you on something, you will likely never find your way onto my friends list.

    Privacy, every couple of months I go in and make sure that all of my privacy settings are the way I want them, as we all know FB has a nasty little habit of loosening these up after every little update. For most things only Friends can view or post anything to my profile. Vary little is extended out to friends of friends and absolutely nothing is set to network or everyone.

    I find FB valuable in that it is probably the lowest risk social networking site out there that I have seen, that allows me to keep in touch with old friends and acquaintances. I may not have in depth conversations with them, but it is nice to say "hi" once in a while.
    • sharp double edged sword

      I played Mafia Wars. I played FarmTown. I had
      over 1000 'friends'. I kept them all in nice
      little packages. One day? I quit all the games.
      Well, all but MouseHunt. I went through and
      started deleting. ENTIRE groups... gone. I kept
      my Core group, my Work group and my 'student'
      group of graduated students that occasionally I
      still keep in contact with. I don't want to
      kill FB, just last week? I reconnected with a
      friend of mine I thought I had lost for good -
      as he lives in Japan... I am *so* happy I have
      contact with certain people, and I enjoy having
      friends and such that I can connect with... But
      the best thing I ever did was kill the games
      and kill the crazy long list of people I don't
      really know or care to know.

      KUDOS to you on your decision! Facebook and
      their complicated, asinine privacy policy will
      eventually fade away... but while the train is
      running? I'm willing to do the work I need to
      do to keep as private as possible and stay in
      contact with those I care about... I'd say?
      Time for another pruning...


  • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.

    I go through my friends list and delete people on a
    regular basis... usually every few months or so. I try
    to keep my friend list to under 200 people at all times,
    though truth be told, I could trim it to less than 150.
    • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.


      You can find so lot of reasons in place of <a href="">xanax online</a> just before not agree along with you.
  • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.

    What is Facebook?
    • me, too. no FB = no FB headaches

      +1 - luddite from the coast!
      • So do I :)

        Aahh, what pleasant is to know that I'm not
        alone with this feeling: Facebook = 100% time

        Ok, I confess: I have an account... that I
        never use!
        No tweet, no MySpace.

        My FB acct "suggests" me new friends that I
        never ever heard of, I got invitations for all
        sorts of crap, and I could continue.

        Anyway, I read somewhere: "Geeks aren't
        social", and so that I must be a kind of geek.

        • Aha!!! Like Minds!!!

          Ditto here.

          At least we aren't alone.

          And didn't realize it.

          And still didn't care.

          It's liberating ....
  • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.

    If I'm one of the idiots that replied in your screencap above, can I call myself a published author now?

    On a serious note, I have been speculating for a while now that there is some hard core packet sniffing going on between the twitter and facebook apps and the corresponding servers. It is likely that tweetdeck and tweetie, etc. are sending authentication information in plain text allowing anyone to capture the info and coopt it like what happened to you. I know for definite fact that someone is spidering LinkedIn, harvesting email addresses to send viagra spam. This is probably a bigger issue than people realize.
  • I killed facebook

    I deactivated my profile and have no intention to resuscitate it. Too much hassle and threat to privacy.
    • I killed facebook

      I deleted my FaceBook account the first time it went haywire and I haven't looked back and I don't regret it.

      Bye Bye Facebook, its a waste of time and efforts.
      • I created a Face book account to see what it was all about

        I used a disposable email address to ensure my privacy, and gave false information. I had a good look around at what you are encouraged to do, and decided, I'm glad I used a disposable email address and fake information.

        I think the account still exists, I've never been back.

        I'd rather have no friends than have Facebook "friends".

        I'd rather have no friends than give away the sort of information that Facebook casually encourages you to give away.

        Unfortunately nothing once "said" on the internet can be unsaid.

        tracy anne
  • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.

    I have an even better solution - I never created a Facebook profile to begin with! I've had email since the 1980s and the same email address for 20 years. My "friends" can reach me any time they want!
    • Must be nice...

      My e-mail address is almost 20 years old. Because of that I get almost 500 spam a day now.

      I still think the people who create these zombie spam networks need to have their fingers removed...
      • At the shoulder.

        • The shoulder is too low, go a little higher...

          ..think about removing the ability to wear a neck tie and that would be a good start...
      • I'm lucky if I get 1 spam a week

        But I use SpamAssassin combined with Evolution

        I still think the people who make it possible for those who create these zombie spam networks need to have their fingers removed...
        tracy anne
        • I have to main email accounts. I do have a 'fake' FaceBook account to.

          My Hotmail account is my SPAM account. I use it for silly stuff, ads, etc. My real account only friends, co-workers and associates have. I have NEVER had spam on my real account. Get about 50 spam a day on Hotmail, but what do I care. Microsoft pays for that!
          The Danger is Microsoft
      • Zap them

        Hook them up to about 50,000 volts that zaps them each time for every spam message sent!
  • RE: I'm Sorry, But I Had to Kill You.

    I just trimmed mine this past week, for the same reasons... I had added anyone and everyone... and there wasn't a point to it.