‘Fake News’ Stories May be Used to Spread Viruses

magglassFacebook introduced a new tool this week to help curb the spread of fake news. The feature will flag false stories and discourage users from sharing them. While the subject of fake news has become a political flashpoint, there is also a practical reason Facebook wants to fight back against it: these links often contain viruses. That was the case last week when a fake “breaking news” story went viral that authorities say may hack the accounts of Facebook users who click on it.

The fake story spreading in Georgia deals with heartbreaking subject matter, as spam like this often does. Some experts have even warned against clicking on or sharing stories that illicit a strong emotional reaction for this very reason: cybercriminals know exactly how to manipulate our feelings. This particular story comes with the alarming headline “2 moms, 5 kids killed in car crash in Butts County.” A snippet of text below the headline enticing users to click reads “two injured fathers had to be held back from the flames trying to save their families.”

Butts County officials say they have received “multiple calls” about the crash, and that it is a hoax designed to spread a computer virus.

“This is FALSE information,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “We are being told that the link on Facebook may be some type of virus.

“PLEASE DO NOT click on or ‘share’ the link as it apparently hacks your Facebook account after doing so.”

The URL that links to the story is suspicious-looking, and with content so blatantly seeking clicks, it’s likely that most users could recognize this content for what it is. But as always, it pays to be careful what you click.