Facebook cloning is a type of social media engineering scam in which the attacker copies the profile picture of an authorized user, creates a new account using that person’s name and sends friend requests to people on the user’s list. In the past we have had local and foreign celebrities fallen victims to this style of attacks, ie, Van Vicker, Majid Michel, John Demelo, 50 cent, Beyonce etc.
The exploit is often successful because many unsuspecting friends just accept the scammer’s requests, assuming that the actual user has created a new account for some reason or forgetting that they are already friends with that person.
The scam doesn’t require any advanced technical knowledge or special computer skills because the user accounts aren’t actually hacked, just copied. Anyone on Facebook can see anyone else’s profile picture and copy the image. Furthermore, because of the nature and purpose of social networking, most people’s friends lists are public, which means that the attacker can see, and send a request to, any or all of the user’s friends.
It is important to note that the user’s actual account has not been compromised and their messages and other data are as secure as they had been, depending on their privacy and security settings. The risks involved with Facebook cloning fall on the user’s friends. Once the scammer has accessed enough of the victim’s friends, there are a number of ploys that may be attempted. The scammer may, for example, request emergency funds, pretending to be stranded somewhere while travelling, or try to get advance funds from the targets for some bogus future payoff. In other cases, the scammer may use social engineering tactics to convince targets to provide sensitive information, which can then be used for identity theft. This is the danger and the beginning of a well thought out plan. In most cases people working in very sensitive areas are easily trapped in given out information they will not give out publicly. Use your imagination and put yourself in a position where you give out the time and venue for a business meeting to the wrong stakeholder.
Several posts that frequently make the rounds claim that all or almost all Facebook accounts are being cloned, which is not the case. Nevertheless, account cloning is an actual threat. As with the burden of risk, the onus is also on the account owner’s friends to protect themselves from the exploit. The best way to prevent yourself from falling prey to Facebook cloning scams is to be careful about friend requests in general: Don’t automatically accept requests without checking out the requester’s profile and never accept unless the account seems valid. If you receive a request from someone who is already a friend, be doubly suspicious. Once in a while do a search on your own account, and know if you have multiple accounts. On a larger scale companies must wake up and train their staff on how to behave when they are online or offline. Knowledge is power and I don’t think you will give your company trade secret to a total stranger. Such trainings should not be long and it should be made interactive and fun. Please remember that when you were asleep the world moved on from knowledge economy to a digital economy. The world will not waiting for you, all you need to do as a person or an organisation is to catch up and it should be fast if you want to remain relevant.
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