How to Identify a Facebook Virus - dummies

By Jamie Crager, Scott Ayres, Melanie Nelson, Daniel Herndon, Jesse Stay

The reason Facebook viruses spread so quickly is that they are hard to discern from regular status updates, and they appear to be shared by people you trust. Many times, the virus link piques your interest and you almost can’t help yourself because you can’t believe someone would share that information online. That morbid curiosity is exactly what the hackers are counting on.

One of the most popular viruses contains a link that claims to tell you who has been looking at your Facebook personal timeline. Although you may be interested to see who’s been looking at your timeline, Facebook doesn’t share that information with anyone. There is no app that allows you to see who has looked at your timeline, so you know it’s a fake link.

Another popular trick is to use a link that allows you to watch a video of something “you won’t believe!” or even a supposed video of you doing something funny. If it’s a legitimate video, it will play when you click it. If you’re asked to download anything or allow an app to have access to your account, it’s probably not a legitimate link and you should cancel immediately.

Facebook apps ask you to allow them to access your personal timeline information. For instance, after you enter a giveaway or contest on a business page, the application for the promotion may ask if you’d like to share the link with your friends.

To share the link, you have to allow the application to have access to your personal timeline. Or if you want to buy something from the Payvment Shopping Mall on Facebook, the Payvment app asks permission to access your account. In both instances, you must allow the application access to your account to complete your task, and the app is from a legitimate company.

If you click a video, photo, or sales link and are asked to allow an app to complete a transaction, you may want to research the company further or click away from that page. Knowing which Facebook applications to allow and which to click away from can be tricky.

One way to avoid getting a dreaded virus is to pay attention to what’s showing up in your news feed. Many times, a virus will become so prolific that all your friends seem to be sharing the same link.

To avoid Facebook viruses, consider the following questions:

  • Does the link have a questionable image? If you see an inappropriate picture with the status update, the link is probably a virus. Facebook is strict about pornography and shuts down pages that are considered adult.

  • Is this the type of link my friend usually shares? If not, don’t click. If you’re tempted to click, first hover your cursor over the link and look in the lower-left corner of your browser. You see the URL attached to that link. If it’s not a URL you’re familiar with, don’t click the link. Many virus links use .info in the URL.

  • Is this link related to a hot topic or current event? You can expect a new rash of viruses when important current events occur.

  • Do I know the person who claims to have tagged me in a photo or video? Beware of any message, link, or video claiming that someone has tagged or commented on a photo of you. Look to see if you know the person who supposedly tagged you. If you don’t know the person, don’t click the link.

    If you do click the link and you see a blank page, change your password immediately. If you’re asked to allow an app to do something, do not click the Allow button — just click away from the page.

  • Am I on a legitimate Facebook page? Occasionally, you may mistype the main Facebook URL and end up on a fake Facebook login page. If you type in your login information and click Submit, that page takes your information and accesses your Facebook account (technically this isn’t a virus; it’s called phishing). Always double-check that your browser is pointed to before you type your login information.

    If you ever end up on a page that says your Facebook session has timed out, do not type in your login information. Facebook sessions don’t time out. Instead, point your browser to and log in as necessary.