by Michael Edwards  Thursday, November 17, 2011  ABC au


ELEANOR HALL: Now to a cyber attack on Facebook that has caused violent and pornographic images to be posted on thousands of users’ profiles. Facebook says it’s removed most of the images but the hacking has raised serious questions about the website’s security.

IT specialists say it’s yet another reason why people should be careful when using social media.

Luke Hopewell is an internet expert at the website, ZDNet Australia, he spoke to Michael Edwards.

LUKE HOPEWELL: Well what’s taken place is that it seems that users have been tricked into copying some JavaScript code into their URL fields and that has propagated this malware that has seen quite a lot of unsavoury, violent and on occasions pornographic images copied into users’ news feeds.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: You say tricked – how does this take place?

LUKE HOPEWELL: It’s a case of social engineering. So for example sometimes it’s a phishing style of thing. You see it everywhere in the same way that people try to scam your bank details off you for example or showing you a link that’s supposed to be a nasty blog that someone’s written about you online. Stuff like that can often trick people into clicking on links.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: It’s quite a serious problem though, it’s affected thousands of Facebook pages hasn’t it?

LUKE HOPEWELL: It has yeah. A lot of people have been affected by this. It really is something that people don’t really expect to see on Facebook and I think it’s shocked a lot of users and I think it’s acted as a timely reminder for people not to click links they’re not sure of or check the veracity of them before they do.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: It’s also raised some serious questions about Facebook’s security.

LUKE HOPEWELL: I mean it has raised questions. Questions are always being raised about the security of the services we give pretty much all of our information to, whether it be Facebook, right up to our online banking.

But Facebook do believe that they’ve caught the people responsible – not caught the people responsible, identified the people responsible – and they will take appropriate action from there. So they’ve acted swiftly in this instance to stem the images appearing on people’s walls so we do have them to thank for that at least.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Is part of the problem that Facebook does have a lot of applications that are created by people outside the company?

LUKE HOPEWELL: Facebook is very open and is designed as an environment for people to use, applications that will sort of enrich their experience online.

But once you start cracking down on apps developed outside of the company, then you start going down a dangerous road that can possibly compromise the experience that the company is going for which is a sort of a pleasant, diverse social experience that maybe even carry over to other application environments like smartphone apps for example.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: There seems to be a backlash among the hacking community towards Facebook.

LUKE HOPEWELL: Facebook does divide opinion. Some people really like Facebook and use it without question and give all their details over. But a lot of people have a huge backlash against Facebook’s privacy settings, Facebook’s on-selling of your information to advertising companies and stuff like that.

So it doesn’t just polarise opinion in the hacker community. I think it’s more of a target for the hacker community but it does polarise opinion worldwide in the technology and non-technology community.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s technology analyst Luke Hopewell speaking to Michael Edwards.

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