Facebook takes on spammer, and wins $873 million

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If you poke Adam Guerbuez on Facebook right now, chances are that he won’t respond. That’s because the Montreal-based spammer has just been landed with a stonking US $873 million judgement by a district court in San Jose, after sending more than 4 million spam messages to users of the Facebook system. Guerbuez sent messages promoting marijuana and sexual enhancement drugs.

According to Facebook, Guerbuez stole the username and password details of Facebook members, and then used infected computers under his control to automatically log into the profiles and spew out spam.

It’s a long shot, of course, that Facebook will ever get to see the enormous amount of money awarded to it – but what’s more important is will it deter other spammers from attempting to abuse the system in future?

Social networking spam has been on the rise this year as cybercriminals have realised that social networking users can be more easily fooled into clicking on a link that appears to have come from a Facebook friend than if it arrived via regular email.

While Facebook is taking steps to better protect its users, hackers will no doubt continue to seek out new vectors of attack – ultimately the onus is on the individual user to exercise caution when using the site and when clicking on unknown links.

Spam via social networks like Facebook is only possible because users are not being careful enough about protecting their usernames and passwords on the site, and defending the security of their personal computers.

Hackers are keen to steal the usernames and passwords of Facebook users as it makes it easier for them to spam out convincing messages to a victim’s network of friends. You should not only choose a complex, hard-to-guess password for these sites, but also defend your computer with up-to-date anti-virus software and security patches.

As part of the judgement, Guerbuez is banned from accessing the Facebook website ever again. Facebook says that this will not be the last time it takes spammers of its social networking website to court.