I just received a message through Facebook that points at how malware authors can be really, really specific with their attack vectors, and how they exploit social networks to make their messages appear to come from a legitimate, trusted source.
We’ve all received links to malware websites in email, of course, and usually we can reject them out of hand because the sender is obviously fake. If the sender’s name is someone you actually know and trust, you’re more likely to open the email, but knowing how easily email headers can be forged you might still be a little suspicious. But Facebook messages require someone to have logged in and authenticated — if I get a message from my friend Tim, it means that Tim has actually gone to facebook.com and opened up his little message thingy and typed something out to me.
Or, at least, Tim’s browser has.
I got this Wall post on Facebook earlier today from an old friend I’ve had in my list since forever.
There’s a couple of interesting things about this: first, the incredible specificity of this virus to maximize the chances that it would appear to come to me from a trusted source. Unless the virus author has hacked into Facebook’s back end, the only way this could work is if the virus snagged my friend Tim’s Facebook password, then logged into his account on its own, accessed his friends list, then mechanically transmitted that message to all those friends. This is a lot of specific code to write, stuff that reads out of Facebook’s HTML and knows how to find the friends list there, and then and knows how to navigate the website to send out messages. It’s a lot of work to take advantage of one social networking site, which goes to show how valuable it is to take advantage of our own assumptions of trust in our friends (or how little virus writers value their time).
Second: even though the actual malware is hosted on the Google-owned Blogspot service, Google’s own malware-detecting tools don’t list it as malicious. In fact, when I tested the site with Google Safe Browsing, it told me “This site is not listed as suspicious” and “Google has not visited this site within the past 90 days”, which is to say that Google can’t even patrol its own webhosting service for exploits. Maybe that explains why Google hosts 2% of the world’s malware.