Facebook caught in spammers’ phishing net

Security researchers at the volunteer-based Project Honey Pot warn that spammers will increase their efforts to ensnare hapless Facebook users in nefarious schemes.

“Spammers are trying to establish trust and they see Facebook as the way in,” Matthew Prince, co-creator of Project Honey Pot and a professor of cyberlaw at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, told the Times Online.

Prince explained that schemes can be as “old-fashioned” and predictable as hackers absuing network profiles to pretend that they are stuck in jail and need money for bail.

According to Prince, cyber criminals are capable of accessing online identities by deploying password hacking software that processes millions of variants of everyday words in just a few minutes.

“What we have seen in the last five years is the industrialization of spam and cyber crime. It is a sophisticated multimillion-dollar business,” explained Prince.

“There are specialists in harvesting e-mail addresses, specialists in creating the spam messages, specialists in producing the fake goods or pills and specialists in creating and controlling the botnets that send the spam out.”

Meanwhile, a report published by the Internet security firm McAfee seemed to concur with Prince’s warning.

“The explosion of applications on Facebook and other services will be an ideal vector for cyber criminals, who will take advantage of friends trusting friends to click links they might otherwise treat cautiously,” concluded the report.

Indeed, the number of malicious bots has nearly quadrupled ever year since 2004, with nearly 400,000 active bots engaged in malicious activity during 2009 “on any given day” – and several million operational over the course of “any month.”