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It is wise to stay vigilant on the internet, but when people share vague, unsourced warnings about a social media scam, the threats they reference typically aren’t credible.
One message making the rounds on Facebook warns users that "hackers" are somehow gaining access to accounts to post "sexual videos and pictures" on people’s walls that they cannot see – but their friends can.
Here is the warning, in full: "URGENT WARNING TO ALL FACEBOOK USERS! FRIENDS BE CAREFUL! THIS IS SERIOUS! Hackers are posting sexual videos and pictures on your walls! You don’t see them, but your friends do, then it seems as if you posted it. If you see any such garbage posted under my name, please let me know because I DID NOT POST IT! Share this to protect yourself and your friends."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The alert is too vague to be a credible security warning and doesn’t detail how these hackers are getting into accounts, nor does it give any solution besides telling users to let someone know if they see this activity on others’ Facebook walls, which provides no permanent fix.
Clifford Neuman, cybersecurity expert and director of University of Southern California’s Center for Computer Systems Security, told PolitiFact he has not seen credible evidence of the warning, either.
He does say it isn’t completely impossible, though.
While malware has been spread in the past using similar techniques, he has not seen evidence that this is happening right now.
If hackers do gain access to accounts, security organizations and technology websites say it is often because the user inadvertently allowed it to happen. This can come about by mistakenly downloading untrustworthy internet applications that allow spam or scam messages to be posted as comments or on walls and may grant unauthorized access to personal information. It can also happen from opening messages and links from shady senders or providing personal information in phishing schemes.
Some steps to take to avoid this include beefing up your passwords and changing them often, disconnecting suspicious-looking apps and strengthening security settings, such as two-factor authentications and checking your login location logs (you can do this on Facebook by visiting your settings and then clicking on Security and Login).
Neuman advised similar online safety steps. Strong passwords and scrutinizing your online associates are paramount to remaining secure.
"Use a strong password on your social media account, and a password that is different from the password used on any other sites on the internet," Neuman said, "and be careful of who one accepts as friends on these platforms. Many users will boast about having thousands of friends because it makes them feel important, but when asked how many of their ‘friends’ they actually know, they are at a loss to answer."
Warnings circulating on Facebook claims hackers are posting "sexual videos and pictures" on users walls without them being able to see it.
There is no credible evidence that this threat is real, and the warnings remain vague and unsourced.
Reposting such warnings will not keep anyone safe online, and cybersecurity experts say people should instead strengthen their account security and avoid installing third-party applications.
This claim is False.
Facebook post, April 2, 2019
Hoax-Slayer.net, Pointless Facebook Warning – Hackers Posting Insulting Messages or Sexual Content In Your Name, Aug. 7, 2017
CNET.com, How to tell if your Facebook has been hacked (and what to do), Oct. 11, 2017
Nexus Security, What To Do When Your Social Media Accounts are Hacked
Email interview, B. Clifford Neuman director at USC’s Center for Computer Systems Security, April 2, 2019
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