A couple of Facebook related headlines have been making the rounds on the Internet in the last few days. Firstly, a dire warning has been issued about what is being referred to as cloning – the act of lifting photos and information from a real Facebook account in order to create a fake account.
Over the last 48 hours, social media users throughout the world have been sharing a warning about account cloning that has gone viral, with people sharing a message that claims that just about all Facebook accounts have been hacked. This is, in reality, a false claim.
The viral messages currently circulating the Internet are believed to have been caused by yesterday’s revelation that North Korea has cloned the entire of the Facebook site. That clone, however, does not involve the profiles of current Facebook users, but is, in fact, a clone of the design of the entire original Facebook website; meant for use by citizens of North Korea.
In North Korea citizens have a very limited access to the World Wide Web. The government imposes harsh censorship that restricts the sites citizens can access. Regular Facebook is banned by the totalitarian leader Kim Jong-Un and a state approved rip-off has been designed that looks and feels just like the original, and was released just last Friday.
The North Korean social media site comes in the familiar, original blue theme. Complete with a news page, timeline and photos section for users to share their lives. Adding friends, posting statuses, commenting and sharing content is all available on the state-approved Facebook. Even the famous like feature is there.
The confusion between the entire new cloned website – and the existence of single page cloning – appears to have been made by some Facebook users over the last 48 hours. Resulting in an unnecessary and widespread fear that everybody’s profile pages have been hacked and reproduced. This is simply not true.
The Truth About Facebook Cloning
While Facebook page cloning is real and is used to spread malware with social engineering, it is not a widespread problem. Of course, one should always be aware of the problem, and should be alert for the possibility of being sent messages from one of these fake pages – which for all intents and purposes would appear to be one of your real friend’s messages.
The important thing to watch out for, are friend requests from people that you are already friends with. Should you receive a friend request from a person you are already friends with, it would be wise to check with that person first to see if they truly have made a second account. If they haven’t, then this is likely to be a cloned account being used by a cybercriminal to send messages containing links to an infected site for spreading malware.
Aaron Brown explains that another danger arising from cloned Facebook pages is that cyber criminals ‘may send messages claiming to be stranded in a foreign country and in need of a short-term loan to help them out of trouble. And since the recipients believe they are talking to a genuine friend, they might agree to transfer the money.’ This is a worthy point and another great reason to be on the lookout for cloned Facebook pages.
The unrelated North Korean website, however, appears to be the reason for a huge amount of confusion, and seems to have directly led to viral messages purporting to help fellow Facebook users by making the following claim,
‘Just giving everyone fair warning … Almost all the accounts are being hacked.’
The events of the last day are simply a case of crossed wires and has directly led to a viral spread of disinformation.
As for the new North Korean Facebook – an amusing sign of poor security from its web designers – within hours of its launch, a Scottish teenager called Andrew McKean was making bold claims that he had managed to hack into the social media site.
According to the youngster, once inside the website’s backend using the administrator login he was able to,
‘Delete and suspend users, change the site’s name, censor certain words and manage the eventual ads, and see everyone’s emails.’
In way of an explanation as to how he managed to hack into the new North Korean Facebook, McKean said that he decided to try the default passwords for the phpDolphin social networking developer’s software (admin and password) a guess that appears to have been correct,
‘I don’t know why, but I just wanted to check if it worked, after all this Facebook clone site was new and not much had been done to it.’