Facebook Scam Dupes Military, Gov't Officials

Dennis Faas's picture

A recent Facebook scam has apparently duped professionals closely linked with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

A spokesperson for the company later confirmed that no confidential information was leaked.

Facebook Friendship Unlocks Personal Info

Recently, an unknown number of Facebook members accepted a friend request from a person they apparently believed was US Navy chief Admiral James Stavridis, who is also the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. (Source: guardian.co.uk)

Among those fooled into agreeing to the online friendship were several senior military officers and government officials from the United Kingdom. Unfortunately for them, the Facebook account was bogus.

Exactly how much information the scammers were able to collect is uncertain, and almost certainly varied from one victim to another.

The problem is that even after a person sets their privacy to Facebook's highest level, virtually any information they have ever provided to the social media network becomes available to people they confirm as friends.

In most cases, these details can include personal email addresses, landlines, and cellphone numbers.

Stolen Information Often used for 'Phishing' Campaigns

These pieces of information, in turn, can be useful to someone carrying out highly targeted "phishing" attempts that try to trick others into responding to messages and giving up even more sensitive information.

Normally, such attacks must be sent out to thousands of random email addresses. But knowing who is using a specific email address allows the phishing process to be much more effective.

It's a variation sometimes known as "spear phishing".

China Reportedly Under Suspicion

London's Sunday Telegraph newspaper reports that military officials believe the scammers are based in China and are acting with the backing and support of that country's government. (Source: telegraph.co.uk)

A spokesman for NATO's European wing confirmed the bogus page had been set up, but asserted that any posts left on the site by military officials should have contained non-classified material only.

In response to this and other similar attacks, senior NATO officials have now been asked to create pages or profiles on social networks even if they hadn't otherwise intended using them.

Officials hope this will make it more difficult for bogus accounts to appear convincing.

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