If you see a post from a friend on your Facebook wall telling you to click and get a free iPad, or a free anything, or just a link that seems odd, it doesn’t mean your account has been hacked. What it means is that your friend has gotten a virus and it is trying to proliferate. If you have a Facebook friend who is a stranger it could well be that person is a spammer. It doesn’t mean your account is infected yet, but if you click on the link, it will be; or your computer will catch a virus.
What is this stuff?
The odd stuff you are seeing on your wall, posted by people you know, means their accounts or computers have been compromised. Most likely they saw the link somewhere else and clicked on it; in turn their account or computer automatically posted the same thing on your wall, trying to get you to click on it. If you click on the link you will further spread the virus. If it is someone you don’t know whom you friended, that person is most likely a spammer or a malicious person trying to spread viruses.
So what do I do?
In the case of the first type, the friend’s account, delete the post and let your friend know his or her account or computer has been compromised. In the case of the spammer, click on the delete button, choose the option to notify Facebook that the post is spam, and unfriend the spammer. Under no circumstances should you click on the link.
Why do people do this?
With 600 million people on Facebook it is no surprise that the people that used to (and still) spam your email are looking to take advantage. People want you to click on links for various reasons. They might get money every time someone clicks on a link, or they might be trying to break into your account or your computer.
How do I prevent this?
Think of Facebook as if it is an email with an attachment or links in it and remember what you were taught about clicking on items in email. Don’t click on any links that seem to be too good (i.e. offering free stuff) or just seem very odd (along the lines of hey, look this person got in trouble for x, click the link to see it.) Make sure you keep your virus and spyware software up to date and frequently have the software scan your computer. Set up an automated scan.
What do I do if my account has been compromised?
First update your virus checker and then scan your computer (or any computer through which you accessed your Facebook account) for viruses and spyware immediately. If your computer is infected have the software try to remove it. If the software can’t, look up the virus online and see if you can remove it. Some viruses are very difficult to remove, requiring entry into the computer’s registry or a complete wipe of the computer. If you aren’t comfortable doing these things, ask for help from someone who is.
Once you have cleaned your computer of all viruses, change your password. If your password is the same one for other accounts, your email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., change those passwords too. If you can identify the type of virus look it up online and see what it does to your computer. If it is something like a keylogger it means everything you type into your computer could well have been stolen. This includes your banking and credit card information along with your passwords. You might well want to change that information.
It is easy to get a virus on Facebook, even if the link you click on isn’t very obvious. Spammers and those who like to spread viruses are taking advantage of the medium to spread their wares, just like they take advantage of email. Be careful what you click on, keep your virus and spyware up-to-date and make sure you scan your computer frequently. Also, make sure you are backing up important documents. This way if your computer is infected and you have to wipe it, or if the virus wipes data from the computer, you will always be able to restore what you lost.