Computer viruses target social networks

By Colleen Vest

Facebook users beware. Computer viruses have evolved from simple e-mail infections, and they have taken a new form, targeting social network Web sites.

“We have had reports of a steady stream of viruses starting around Oct. 18,” said Mike Corn, chief privacy and security officer for the University. “A sizeable percentage of these infections are from Web sites where people post links, especially Facebook and MySpace.”

After clicking on a link, the user is asked to enter his or her login and password or other case sensitive information, Corn said. Then the virus redirects to another page and infects the computer, he continued.

“A lot of these links just look like links from Google or even YouTube,” Corn said.

Sharon Falen, freshman in LAS, said Facebook has some security issues to take care of, but some viruses on social networks are easy to spot.

“Some of my Facebook friends who I never talk to would post weird links on my wall or in a chat, so I just figured it was probably a virus,” she said. “Just the way some links on Facebook are worded, like ‘Find out what cutie likes you’ or something, makes it sound like a virus, so I am really careful about what I click on.”

Corn said students should be cautious about where they enter their e-mail login and password because viruses that are posted on social networks infect computers through this information.

“Facebook has specifically said that they will not make people log-in anywhere but the first page of the Web site,” Corn said.

Kelly Laxgang, freshman in Education, said Facebook should take some responsibility for computer viruses.

“I wouldn’t have known about some of the viruses on the Web site unless I stumbled upon them,” she said. “People need to be more aware about security issues, but I think Facebook should send out an e-mail or something to warn people about some of the possible viruses.”

Corn suggested students download browser tools and plug-ins to protect their computers.

“Web of Trust, or WOT, is for Firefox and Internet Explorer, and it has icons next to links to show the security, based on cumulative ratings from other users,” he said.

McAfee Antivirus Software also offers some downloads for anti-virus protection. It has SiteAdvisor, which has a rating system of green, yellow and red for security, Corn continued.

“These viruses aren’t specific, so it’s a good reason to look into tools and general virus protection,” he said.

Sam Imburgia, freshman in LAS, said since the viruses could be sent to any Facebook user through inboxes, wall posts and the chat feature, people should be careful.

“It’s pretty common sense not to click on random links online,” she said. “But, if I accidentally clicked on a virus, and it was somehow sent to all my friends on Facebook, even the ones I don’t really talk to, it would be really awkward.”