Updated A false rumour suggesting that Facebook is to start charging is being used to bait malware traps.
Thousands of disgruntled punters, angry at the $4.99 a month charge for using the social networking site that will supposedly kick in from June (or July, according to other false reports) have been induced to visit "protest group" sites in response to spam emails. However, in reality, there is no such plan and the protest pages often contain malware, as urban myth debunking site Snopes warns:
The protest page was a trap for the unwary; clicking on certain elements of it initiated a script that hijacked users' computers. Some of those who did venture a click had their computers taken over by a series of highly objectionable images while malware simultaneously attempted to install itself onto their computers.
Snopes published its warning on 31 December, but groups on Facebook itself protesting the supposed upcoming charges remain active almost two weeks later. A quick check on one such UK group contains no scripting unpleasantness directly, but it does link to numerous third-party sites whose provenance remains suspect. Searching for "Facebook charges July 2010" leads to fake blog entries as well as some legitimate results, evidence of an ongoing black hat SEO campaign of a type commonly used to punt rogue security scanner software over recent months.
A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the charging rumour was false, adding that it was prepared to clamp down on groups spreading the bogus gossip about social networking fees.
We have removed the largest groups, however, we didn't find any malicious links. We take security very seriously and respond quickly to user reports of suspicious content and behaviour.
Despite Facebook's actions the rumour of supposed charges continues to circulate, creating an environment that may be abused in further black hat SEO attacks. ®