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back to article Cockeyed 'Knob Face' confusion masks real malware threat

Wrong-headed warnings about a worm spreading across Facebook are causing confusion about a real threat. If you believe messages doing the rounds on the social networking site then a "Trojan worm" called "Knob Face", which poses as supposed footage of an outrageously unlikely affair between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, …

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We're meant to be surprised?

What's that, you say, Skippy? Facebook is rife with nutters, forwarding inaccurate rumor, and speculation to each other, without checking anything first? But, surely, Skippy, Facebook exists to bring together, all those people who used to forward (to everyone in the company), all those email 'horror' stories, about cockroaches hatching inside people's bodies, or folks being blown up after a 'sidewinder missile' zeroed in on their mobile phone signal?

The behaviour is the same, but the medium has changed slightly.

Personally, I rather hope Facebook does replace email, because it means I might be able to do something productive, using email, for the first time in about a decade (assuming my email vendor doesn't try to crowbar Facebook, into my mail client, that is!).

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Coat

Years ago...

I received an email that said something like:

"I am not very good at writing programs, but would very much like to wreak havoc with a virus. Could you therefore please send this email on to all the people in your address book then delete all the files in c:\windows on your computer?"

I still chuckle when I think of it. :-)

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Bronze badge

Ed Stewart

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO?

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Boffin

Hoax warning

"After all, no anti-virus will detect hoaxes because they aren't viruses."

Why not? The virus scanners are scanning every page that you visit and every email that you receive. Why on earth shouldn't they warn you when you're reading a hoax?

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Detecting hoaxes

The difficulty in detecting hoaxes is telling the difference between

"Please watch out for emails about Ed Stewart - the so-called Crackerjack virus will turn your CPU into blancmange. Forward this warning to all of your friends - we need to stamp this one out!"

and..

"There's a new hoax doing the rounds. It warns you to watch out for emails about Ed Stewart - claiming the so-called Crackerjack virus will turn your CPU into blancmange. Please forward this advice to all of your friends - we need to stamp this one out!"

And then there's the issue that virus hoaxes can spread via newspapers, fax, Radio 2, etc. or even as publicity stunts. (Read the story of the Irina hoax virus publicity stunt here: http://virusbusters.itcs.umich.edu//hoaxes/irina.html )

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WTF?

...and why is this news?

It's a hoax. It's not real. No basis in fact.

How about a Breaking News Flash about the fact that our local star (which we call the sun) is still burning hydrogen fuel at the same rate it's been doing it for the past few billion years? What astounding news! Holy Mother of Pearl! Fantastic! Amazing!

Pffffft!

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Badgers

Misfits?

Is the Smartgirl15 tag a play on the 'Misfits' series character Shygirl18?

Both fake, both for nefarious reasons.. maybe someone is a fan?

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Anonymous Coward

What. Stewpot?

Fuck, that ages me! Wasn't his heyday around about decimalisation? I'm surprised he's still alive! But on the radio, in the newspapers, and while having a chat down the pub? Doesn't he ever shut his gob?

Actually, no. I forgot: he's a DJ.

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Stewpot

It must have been almost ten years ago. I was in a car, and Ed Stewart was pontificating on Radio 2 about some computer virus or other.

My ears pricked up, and I realised he was telling his loyal band of listeners a load of old nonsense - and was actually reading out a virus hoax.

I called the station, to try to get them to put out a correction, but they must have thought I was a nutter.

Which I probably was. For listening to Ed Stewart.

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Grenade

I like these hoaxes

but only as I get to charge an 'Idiot Tax' as I hand over my bill for the minimum of 1 hour fee to tell someone who is insistent that I.T. is wrong, and the world will end tomorrow if security is not improved that it's a hoax, and they should listen to their own people

Enough of these, and sometimes it drills through their thick skull

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Thumb Up

these hoaxes provide some benefit

for those contacts on my list who have changed their status to reflect the latest hoax, has allowed me to identify the dross and initiate an immediate purge.

making the world a better place.

god bless you knob face :D

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FAIL

Nothing to see here...

...they're just FaceBook losers, umm I mean users...

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing new here?

As the article says, hoaxes have been a problem for years so I'm not sure why these particular ones are newsworthy. That said, as Guido mentions it does at least provide you with the opportunity to play "spot the dummy" with your friends list.

I can remember a particularly great backfire resulting from hoax emails vs. credible threats. I think it was Blaster, and I received an email from my (now ex) wife with an infected attachment, so I immediately mailed her back, advising to inform her I.T. team so they could make sure they were protected. They took it as a hoax and ignored the warning - the next day the company's MD got hit and subsequently the worm sent out mails to their entire address book (including various other company heads).

That said, I think it's about every 2-3 weeks that I see a different hoax mail but it's no excuse for not properly checking to see if they are credible each time.

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Coat

This is not a virus...

... tell all your friends!!!!!

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Coat

"Credible sources"..?

So I'm a typical Facebook user, and I'm worried about a malware scare. Clearly I need to verify this with a credible source - but my problem is that I'm a typical Facebook user, which means I have none of the knowledge or understanding required to distinguish between a legit AV provider and a honeytrapping secondhand trojan salesman.

Not that you should ever buy a secondhand trojan. Or if you must, makes sure you give it a good wash ...

I'll get my coat

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Bronze badge

Virus hoax or personal safety hoaxes waste mindspace.

However, they can be used - in a "life hands you a lemon, make lemonade" way - to attract attention to better-written advice on personal and computing safety.

Snopes.com covers several, including variations on criminals or gangs lurking in car parks...

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Joke

tl;dr

To quote Fred Langa way back in 2001:

1. Big companies don't do business via chain letters and there are no computer programs that track how many times an e-mail is forwarded, let alone by whom. Bill Gates is not giving you $1000, Disney is not giving you a free vacation, and Nokia is not giving away free cell phones to those who email the most messages. There also is no baby food company issuing class action checks to emailers.

2. Proctor and Gamble is not part of a satanic cult or scheme, and its logo is not satanic.

3. MTV will not give you backstage passes if you forward something to the most people.

4. The Gap is not giving away free clothes. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true."

5. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are hell bent on believing the kidney theft ring stories, see http://urbanlegends.tqn.com/library/weekly/aa062997.htm And I quote "The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories." None have. That's "none" as in "zero." Not even your friend's cousin.

6. Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they do, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at http://www.bl.net/forwards/cookie.html Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on.

7. If the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that spread radioactive particulates over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an AOL chain letter?

8. There is no "Good Times" or "It Takes Guts To Say Jesus" or any number of other similar supposed viruses. In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first confirm it at an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with actual viruses. AOL, for example, is not in the antivirus business. (Some would say AOL itself is a virus, but that's another story.) The fact that someone says "AOL confirmed the existence of this virus!" is meaningless. Try http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/index.html And even if the virus IS real, don't forward the warning. We don't care; we keep our antivirus scanner up to date, and know better than to open unknown file attachments.

9. There is no gang initiation plot to murder any motorist who flashes headlights at another car driving at night with out lights.

10. If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months. It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the ".." that begin each line either. Besides, if it has gone around that many times we've probably already seen it.

11. Craig Shergold (or Sherwood, or Sherman, etc.) in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop sending him their business cards. He apparently is no longer a "little boy" either.

12. The "Make a Wish" foundation is a real organization doing fine work, but they have had to establish a special toll free hot line in response to the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do. Also, the American Cancer Society does not give 3 cents for each person you forward e-mail to. They ask for you to *donate* money, they don't *give* it; and, besides, how could they know how many e-mails you sent out? Sheesh.

13. If you are one of those insufferable idiots who forwards anything that promises something bad will happen "if you don't forward it" to X people or within X timeframe, then something bad *will* happen to *you* if I ever meet you in a dark alley.

14. Women really are suffering in Afghanistan, but forwarding an e-mail won't help their cause in the least. If you want to help, contact your local legislative representative, or get in touch with Amnesty International or the Red Cross.

15. As a general rule, e-mail "signatures" and "From:" lines are easily faked and mean nothing.

16. KFC really does use real chickens with feathers and beaks and feet and everything. No, they really do. Why did they change their name? In this health conscious world, what was KFC's name? Kentucky FRIED Chicken. FRIED is not healthy. So with the help of a focus group, they changed the name to KFC. It's short, doesn't offend dieters and it's easy to remember.

17. Another thing, just because someone said in a message, four generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit," or "we know a lawyer who says it must be true or [Disney/Nokia/AOL/Microsoft/etc.] will be sued!" does not actually make it true.

PS There is no bill pending before Congress that will allow the Post Office to charge you for sending email.

Bottom Line...

Composing e-mail or posting something on the Net is as easy as writing on the walls of a public rest room, and about as like a source of truth. Don't automatically believe anything...ASSUME it's false, unless there is real proof (and not just someone's unverified claim) that it's true.

Now copy, paste, and send this to everyone you know or the program this message just covertly put on your hard drive will open up your CD-ROM tray and reach out and slap you upside the head.

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Sophos's press officer and reality

"double checking [...] with credible sources, rather than just passing on attention-grabbing snippets without pausing to think"

This man has not been on the internet much, has he.

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