Facebook virus precautions

Last month we shared with you that AEA 267 is now communicating to our constituents via Facebook and Twitter.  Many of you are becoming “fans” and “followers” and we want to share some important information with you to help you avoid time-consuming repairs to your computers.

Facebook, a popular social networking tool, is becoming more prevalent as it is used by businesses and education agencies to advertise their services. Because staff may be accessing Facebook from agency computers, it is important that you are familiar with basic security concerns surrounding this site.  While Facebook itself is not problematic, certain links and applications that work along with the site can infect your computer with malware (spyware) and/or viruses.

Consider the following when accessing Facebook from your computer:

  • Be cautious of suspicious messages or links posted to your wall which ask things such as “Have you seen this video?” or “Is this you in this photo?” If you click such a link, you run the risk of your computer being infected by malware or a virus.
  • Be wary of clicking on a link in Facebook and downloading software. One computer worm, “Koobface”, spreads by delivering Facebook messages to people who are ‘friends’ of a Facebook user whose computer has already been infected. Upon receipt, the message directs the recipients to a third-party website, where they are prompted to download what is purported to be an update of the Adobe Flash player.
  • Be wary of advertisements listed within Facebook.  While you may assume them to be harmless, some contain malicious links.  Others may launch pop-ups, which indicate your computer is infected with a virus, asking you to download software to remove the virus.  Unfortunately, the end user ends up downloading something infected with malware or a virus instead of the helpful software it claims to be.
  • Installing non-Facebook games, quizzes and utilities can also place malware and/or viruses on your computer.  The basic Facebook interface is said to be safe but third-party options are not and can cause you and your computer grief.

From a related security standpoint:

  • Be sure you are not opening your account to people you do not actually know.  Hackers create fake profiles, which can be used to access your account.
  • Be mindful of security settings for your account.  Leaving your account wide-open in regard to privacy settings can leave you open to cyber-stalkers or others, which you may not wish to have access your information.
  • Think before posting certain information such as the fact that you may be out of town or away from home for a certain period of time.  While your friends may be interested to know you are on vacation, there are others who may be very interested to learn you are away from your home.
  • Remember, any information you post online is accessible and can be accessed in one way or another.  Even if your privacy settings are secure, data that you post can still be shared by word-of-mouth.
  • While the agency does provide some of the best anti-virus and malware software, in some cases it can only catch the virus after it infects your computer.  Infected machines need to be cleaned immediately and this may result in time away from your computer while the infection is removed.

To ensure that you do not end up with an infected machine, please be mindful of computer security when accessing any sort of social networking site or publicly available online tools.

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