Horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself? Don’t be too quick to click

After a week full of clickjacking attacks, we’re seeing other dodgy links being spread widely between Facebook users who should perhaps know better.

One that I have seen crop up a lot, is appearing in the status updates of Facebook users with phrases like:

This horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself! http://tinyurl.com/VerySadPhoto

This horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself!

and

This horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself! http://tinyurl.com/PhotographerSuicide

and

This horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself! http://tinyurl.com/HorriblePic

This horrific photo forced photographer to kill himself!

Clicking on links like these can take you to Facebook pages which names such as “Photographer Committed Suicide 3 Days After Taking This Photo” or “Man Commits Suicide 3 Days After Taking This Photo”.

Man Commits Suicide 3 Days after Taking This Photo

These Facebook pages force you to first “Like” them and then republish the link on your own Facebook page (advertising it to your online friends) before you eventually get to see the photograph.

The Facebook page forces you to pass on the message

Just ask yourself this – do you really want to recommend a page to your friends, before you know what lies behind it? For all you know, you could be passing on a link which will ultimately take your online pals to a phishing page or malware.

As it happens, the pages are lying in any case.

The photograph – of an emaciated young girl in Sudan – was taken in March 1993 by prize-winning South African photo-journalist Kevin Carter. Carter did kill himself – but it was over a year later in South Africa, not three days after the photo was taken as claimed by the Facebook links.

You can probably imagine, however, that people would easily agree to publish the link to all their friends – in their morbid interest to see the photo – and thus help it spread quickly.

In fact, it’s no surprise that links like these are spreading so quickly and virally across Facebook, when popular pages such as “I like your makeup…LOL JK, it looks like you got gangbanged by Crayola” (currently 1.7 million fans and counting) have republished it to all of their followers.

I like your makeup...LOL JK, it looks like you got gangbanged by Crayola

Sigh.. If only you had to take the equivalent of a driving test before you were allowed to run a Facebook page with that many followers. Just imagine the harm they could do by posting a stupid or malicious link..

So, what’s the purpose of these pages about the horrific photograph? Well, if we want to give the creators of these pages the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible that they have created them out of curiousity – to see how many people they could trick into “Like”ing their page.

But I suspect there’s more to it than that. My feeling is that once a page like this has managed to gather a large enough following, it could be abused for the purposes of spamming, spreading malware and stealing identities.

So you really should take much more care over which pages you agree to “Like” on Facebook. Remember, you should never be bullied into publicising a Facebook page before they have shown you the content you are interested in. After all, if you like what you see, you’ll only be too happy to share it with your friends, right?

If you have been unfortunate enough to have been ensnared by this latest nuisance, do the following:

  • Remove the update from your newsfeed (so your friends will no longer click on it)
  • Enter Edit profile/Likes and interests and remove the “Man Commits Suicide 3 Days After Taking This Photo” page from your list of Pages you like (you may have to click on “Show other Pages”)
  • Go to “Privacy Settings” and edit your settings for “Applications and websites” in order to check that you have not inadvertently added any unwanted applications.

Finally, if you’re a regular user of Facebook, be sure to join the Sophos page on Facebook to be kept informed of the latest security threats.