"Facebook Closing on March 15th" hoax spreads across: Sophos

by CXOtoday Staff    Jan 11, 2011

website unavailableIT security and control firm, Sophos, warns that more than one million Facebook users are believed to have fallen for a hoax claiming that the social networking site will close on March 15th.

A news story, published in a journal said that Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook) had told reports that “managing (Facebook) has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness.” In a panic, Facebook users have spread the story far and wide across the Internet. Although Facebook debunked the hoax via its Twitter account late on Sunday, users continue to pass the bogus messages onto their online friends, informed the IT security firm.

The article also quoted a company official, Avrat Humarthi, VP, technical affairs, Facebook, “After March 15th the whole website shuts down. So if you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the Internet. You won’t be able to get them back once Facebook goes out of business.”

Although a hoax is not as serious as malware, it’s still a nuisance, clogging up communications, increasing the overall level of spam and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

Sophos believes that many people would not believe the report, which comes from a newspaper that has previously reported George Clooney is running for president. However, it only takes a small proportion of people to think it might be possible to turn a joke of a news story into an Internet hoax.

“I certainly wouldn’t disagree that users would be wise to have their own backup of their photographs, rather than rely on Facebook - but it’s nothing more than a scare to suggest people that they have to do it before March 15th because Facebook is going to close down,” explained Graham Cluley, Sr. technology consultant, Sophos.

“There’s an important lesson here -don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, and think twice before you pass a story on to your friends,” Cluley advised.