Criminals excel in manipulating the trust within human relationships, particularly as individuals project themselves into digital realms such as social media. We see it in phishing messages, which fool us into clicking on a malicious weblink from what appears to be a benign organization with which we do business. We also see it in the much discussed area of “fake news” on social networks, where readers are likely to take news reports “liked” by friends as legitimate news stories. Much has been written about how “fake news” is promoted by bots and other amplification services, and how such promotion may have had an impact on recent elections.
The McAfee Labs Threats Report: September 2017, released today, identifies a notable surge in similar activity by the Faceliker malware. This Trojan manipulates Facebook accounts clicks to artificially “like” certain content. Faceliker accounted for about 8.9% of the 52 million new malware samples detected in the quarter. It was a key driver in the 67% overall growth for the category during the period.
Faceliker is not the fault of Facebook. Rather, it is something users bring to Facebook.
Faceliker infects users’ browsers when they visit malicious or compromised websites. It then hijacks their Facebook account clicks in such a way that users think they are liking one thing, but the malware is redirecting the click. It acts on their behalf to click another “like” button without their knowledge or consent, essentially making each user an accomplice in the click fraud scheme.
Users aren’t negatively impacted by the Trojan, but they do appear to over-like certain content, skewing like-ratings through fraudulent inflation. The actors behind malware such as Faceliker sell their services to the actors behind the content.
Suspicious users can remove unrecognized likes by surveying their record of behavior in their activity log. To its credit, Facebook has put up defenses that detect fraudulent likes and ask a user to confirm that they intended to click as their browser appeared to click.
McAfee Labs Vice President Vincent Weafer has commented that as long as there is profit in such efforts, we should expect to see more such schemes in the future.
“Faceliker leverages and manipulates the social media and app-based communications we increasingly use today,” Weafer said. “By making apps or news articles appear more popular, accepted, and legitimate among friends, unknown actors can covertly influence the way we perceive value and even truth.”