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

My FaceBook account had spiraled out of control, forcing me to take drastic measures.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

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.

Editorial standards