Spirit Led Living

November 3, 2009

Facebook 101 – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 4:23 pm
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By Ron Jones, Search Engine Watch,

<!–Columns  |  Contact Ron  |  Subscribe to Newsletters  |  RSS Feeds  |  Biography–>If you aren’t on Facebook already, there’s a good chance you will be soon. Whether it’s your kids, neighbors, or friends, someone has probably encouraged you to sign up, set up a profile, and start “social networking.”

Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, are becoming more popular and one of the first places people go when they get on the Internet. These sites offer a plethora of “social” features, including e-mail, photo sharing, and chat.

Facebook, the king of the hill, is the number one social networking site. There are more than 220 million active users with about half a million people joining every day. Facebook increased its U.S. market share from 55.15 percent in August to 58.59 percent in September, according to Hitwise.

There is so much to do and learn on Facebook that it can’t all be covered adequately in one column. We’ll focus on just the fundamentals and provide an overview of what can be done with Facebook today. The next two installments will focus on the basics of successful fan pages and how to market your business on Facebook.

Setting up Facebook and Privacy

Setting up Facebook is easy and straightforward. After creating your account, set up your account settings and create a profile. Within the account settings, you can control who can see your information and what they can see.

Start with less and open it up more as you feel comfortable. Privacy is an important factor here and you need to know how to protect yourself. Check out Facebook’s privacy policy and this update to the privacy setting.

Next is your profile. Most of this information is self-explanatory. Remember, don’t fill in information about yourself if you don’t want people to see it.

For your picture, I recommend a close face shot. This allows people to help recognize you better. Consider this as your personal brand. People will see this image and associate it with you and your correspondence. Your picture will say a lot about you consider what you’re communicating when people see your image.

For more information on setting up Facebook, check out this tutorial. You need to set up a free account first. This covers a lot of the basics with nice examples, videos, and interactive slides.

What Can You Do With Facebook?

Facebook is like a large database of people who are using it for different reasons, but mainly as a communication tool. Applications like photo albums, games, gifts, and others enhance your Facebook experience.

  • Photo Album: You can upload your family trip to Disney World or birthday party pics to Facebook for family and friends to see. A photo application makes it easy to upload and share your pictures. Once a picture is uploaded you can leave a comment and even “tag” or label people in the picture. With this tag feature, you don’t need to e-mail your Facebook friends the pictures you took of them. Tagged pictures are automatically sent to your friend’s wall. You can control this feature in the account settings if you don’t like the idea of people being able to tag you in their images.
  • Events: If you’re planning an event and want to get the word out to all of your friends, you can use the Event application to help you plan the event and invite your Facebook friends. You can even invite friends who aren’t on Facebook. Need something to do? You can also use this tool to find events whether local or related to a special interest you have.
  • The Wall and Notes: The Wall is the main part of your profile where most of the activity occurs. This is where your friends can see your updated status, photos, and other things you’ve added. Friends can post comments here and you can post comments back to their wall, which is called “Wall to Wall.” Notes are another way to communicate with your friends. Some people use notes to post questions and start a discussion about various topics.
  • Chat: If you’re familiar with other chat programs (e.g., AIM, Yahoo Messenger), Facebook has a similar feature that allows you to chat with other friends when they’re available.
  • Groups and Fan Pages: Are you a member of a fraternity, sorority, or a national or local organization? Do you feel passionate about a particular cause, such as breast cancer awareness? It’s highly likely that you will find a group to join on Facebook that matches your interests or affiliations. You can search for and join groups or create your own.

This leads us into next week’s topic on how to create a successful fan page for you business. Until then, please post any useful resources or links that helped you learn your way around Facebook. To get you started, here are some useful resources:

Why Does Facebook Matter to Marketers?

With Microsoft recently partnering with Facebook to integrate Facebook and Twitter updates into Bing search results, this opens the door for more real-time search results. It is likely that Google will also partner with Facebook in the near future. So having an understanding of Facebook (and Twitter) can open up new ways for search marketers to reach their audiences and brand themselves.

Facebook also presents a unique marketing opportunity for businesses with Facebook Business Pages. As more people participate with social media sites, marketers are learning that these sites are where people are learning more about products, services, business, etc. Like most social media sites, marketing on Facebook has a viral effect.

Here are some benefits for using Facebook:

  • Customer interaction: Provides a place for a conversation between a business/brand and customers to happen. Through this interaction companies can build better relationships with customers.
  • Reputation management: Companies can learn more about how the brand is perceived online. This is done through comments and direct feedback and with monitoring conversations both positive and negative.
  • Customer acquisition: As people become fans of a Facebook page, they get a notice posted as news item their friends to see. This viral approach will then lead to new viewers.
  • Drive traffic: With increased activity of a Facebook fan page, traffic will likely increase to the company’s Web site. Facebook pages also appear in universal search results.
  • Branding: Can generate brand awareness to new audiences in addition to a company’s corporate Web site.

Meet Ron Jones at SES Chicago on December 7-11, 2009.

Facebook 101 – Search Engine Watch (SEW).

 

In The Fight Between Facebook And Twitter, Which One’s The Mac And Which One’s The PC?

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 4:19 pm
Tags: ,
by Brian Solis on November 1, 2009

Facebook is much more than a social network. Twitter is much more than an information network or serendipity engine. Each represent a dashboard for your attention, a foundation for conversations and collaboration, and a matrix for your social graph and contextual relationships. In other words, Facebook and Twitter essentially represent the entrée to the future of the social Web as each strive to host, what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and others, refer to as our personal social operating system (OS).

What Windows is to PCs and OS X is to Macs, Facebook and Twitter are to our social architecture and enterprise. Certainly there’s a David and Goliath element here depending on which company you immediately view as Microsoft or Apple. However, Mac and Windows are simply operating systems, not networks per se, and that’s where the metaphor of an OS breaks down. Either way, there is the perception that there is a competition between Facebook and Twitter for your attention and your network.

Why? At the very least, Twitter and Facebook combine the elements of productivity and interactivity, combining a social OS, a global network, and a platform for open development.

The fabric of our online activity stems from a sophisticated social framework that facilitates the exchange of information and sustains professional, conversational, and contextual connections. Facebook and Twitter, like Windows and Mac, allow us to interact cross platform, while hosting dedicated applications that support our engagement, productivity, and communication.

As much attention as we pay to this mythical clash between Facebook and Twitter, the truth is that it’s not unprecedented to maintain identities in more than one ecosystem. For example, I use both Mac and Windows-based systems, I use both Facebook and Twitter. Yet according to new data from Hitwise, it appears that the epic battle between the two perceived leaders in Social Media is one-sided—or perhaps better stated, dominated.

As of October 2009, Facebook accounts for 6 percent of all U.S. Internet visits while Twitter represents only 0.14 percent. In fact, visits to Twitter.com peaked at .20 percent between June and July 2009 and has slowly lost attention in the interim, a point TechCrunch has noted as well. At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco recently, co-founder Evan Williams acknowledged the slowdown in traffic to Twitter.com in the U.S., for now, but he also stated that they are in the process of finalizing new features that will reverse the downward trend. Williams also reminded us Twitter continues to recognize growth in both mobile and abroad.

And, for those who take solace in the hope that traffic is migrating from Twitter.com to mobile clients, there is some truth to the theory. However, new visitors count for everything and Twitter needs to do a better job capturing new users and holding their interests after they register. The company needs to look further than its resident celebrities to attract and sustain traffic.

For the time being, regardless of numbers, Facebook and Twitter serve a purpose, and thus, remain the Mac and PC in the lives of many. And, until the day that I am forced or compelled to pledge allegiance to one or the other, I will continue to cultivate relationships across multiple landscapes and suggest that you do the same.

But which one’s the Mac and which one’s the PC?

.cbw{ padding: 1px; border: 1px solid #b6b6b6; margin: .6em 0 .6em 0 !important; clear: both;} .cbw a{ color: #3F87BB !important; border: 0 !important; text-decoration: none !important;} .cbw a:hover{ color: #165d91 !important; border: 0 !important; text-decoration: none !important;} .cbw_header{ font-size: .9em; font-weight: bold; position: relative;} .cbw_header_text{ background: #f4f4f4 !important; padding: 1em 1em 1em 1em !important;} .cbw_header_toggle{ display: block; position: absolute; top: 1em; right: 1em; _right: 3.5em; font-weight: bold; cursor: pointer;} .cbw_header_get{ display: block; position: absolute; top: 1em; right: 7em; _right: 9.5em; font-weight: bold; cursor: pointer;} .cbw_subheader{ padding: .7em .7em .5em .7em !important; border: 0 !important; margin: 0 !important; font-size: 1.2em !important; background: #f4f4f4 !important; font-weight: bold;} .cbw_subcontent{ font-size: 0.95em; line-height: 1.2em !important; margin: .15em 0 .15em 0 !important; padding: .7em !important; background: white !important; border-top: 2px solid #f4f4f4 !important; border-bottom: 2px solid #f9f9f9 !important; overflow: hidden; height: auto;} .cbw_subcontent p{ margin: .45em .15em .45em .15em !important; padding: 0 !important;} .cbw_subcontent_left{ float: right !important; margin: 0 0 .5em .5em !important;} .cbw img{ max-width: 150px !important; max-height: 150px !important; border: 0 !important; padding: 0 !important;} .cbw img:hover, .cbw_subcontent_left a:hover{ border: 0 !important;} .cbw_subcontent_right{ } .cbw_subcontent table{ width: auto !important;} .cbw_subcontent td{ padding: .15em !important; vertical-align: top !important;} .cbw_subcontent .td_left{ width: 40px !important; font-weight: bold !important;} .cbw_footer{ padding: .8em !important; font-size: .9em !important; text-align: right !important; background: #f9f9f9 !important;} .cbw_footer a{ font-weight: bold; } .cbw_header_text { display: none; } get widgetminimize

Facebook image
Website: facebook.com
Location: Palo Alto, California, United States
Founded: February 1, 2004
Funding: $716M

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 300 million users.

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard… Learn More

Twitter image
Website: twitter.com
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
Founded: March 21, 2006
Funding: $155M

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006… Learn More

In The Fight Between Facebook And Twitter, Which One’s The Mac And Which One’s The PC?.

How To Spam Facebook Like A Pro: An Insider’s Confession

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 3:51 pm
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Last night we wrote about the lead generation scams within social gaming networks. This is a guest post by Dennis Yu, the CEO of BlitzLocal, a privately held 50 person advertising agency in Denver, Colorado, specializing in local search engine marketing for franchises and professional service firms via Google and Facebook. BlitzLocal is no longer in the business of spam, but they do specialize in Facebook advertising and are now using the platform they’ve developed to run campaigns for big brands and small businesses. Dennis writes a blog at dennis-yu.com

Did you know how Mark Zuckerberg supported Facebook in the early days, before he got venture funding? Casino ads. And how about those advertisers who were making over $100,000 a day selling Acai Berry and other weight loss products – they are friends of mine, pioneers of new advertising channels. You see those ads saying “Inbox (5). Nick, someone in San Francisco has a crush on you!” (with your name, profile picture, and city in the ad). I generated millions of dollars from these offers on Facebook – I am not proud of it, but it was very lucrative.

I will walk you through how these online scams work on Facebook and other social networks – the mechanics of how the money is made, some of the people involved, and who is actually clicking on ads. If you’re reading this article, there is a good chance that you are not the type of person actually clicking on these spam ads, but are you curious as to who actually is?

In June 2007, Facebook opened up their application developer platform so that anyone could build games on top of the social network. By having access to user data, game developers could instantly make engaging, viral games. Rate who is hottest among your friends, share quizzes, race cars, grow vegetables, and so forth – all with a click of a button. Users in one click gave the game permission to access their profile data and they didn’t think twice about it.

lunatic_games

Facebook hadn’t consider what was possible when the game developer passed on user name, profile picture, and personal details on to an advertiser – and the kind of deceptive ads that were possible.

larry_quiz_ad

These ads looked like they were from Facebook- the blue button, white background, same font. And, of course, they had your profile picture, your name – plus that of your friends, in the ad. If you’re a 15 year old girl, would you know what’s being served by Facebook, the game developer, or the ad network? These same offers have been running for years on MySpace, using tactics such as fake Windows system messages and pop-ups.

myspace_crush_ad

But the perfect storm being able to dynamically insert user data into an ad, disguising the ad to seem like part of the application, lack of enforcement by the social networks, and billing the parents’ cell phone – well, it’s no secret what happens next.

By early 2008, the platform was generating 400 million impressions a day, as people poked, bit, slapped, kissed, and drop-kicked each other to the glee of a college-age crowd of game developers. These developers weren’t professional corporations – they are college kids who build a game for fun over the weekend and now discovered they could make over $10,000 a day in ad revenue. Yes, we wrote some big checks. The numbers today are much higher. Given the choice of making money versus being ethical, these kids chose money in nearly every instance.
fbook.crush
When the Facebook platform first launched, developers used Google AdSense, which was paying 10-15 cent eCPMs, meaning that developers were earning 10 to 15 cents for every 1,000 ads they shown. But soon, ad networks, such as the one I operated, stepped in to show that by using social data and some clever ad copy, we could raise this to well over $6—that’s 60 times better than AdSense. AdSense was getting a 0.1% CTR and earning 15 cents a click. Our ads were getting up to a 4% CTR and also earning 15 cents a click. You do the math.

Believe me, I tried to do honest optimization—running legitimate flower ads on Valentines Day, Walmart ads on Cyber Monday, auto insurance offers on car racing games, and so forth. For months, I went through over 150 offers across a dozen networks, systematically testing offers, ad copy, targeting, creative templates, and so forth. I couldn’t get a single one to work. And in a previous life I worked on Yahoo!’s internal analytics team—our job was to optimize traffic.

I finally came to this realization: People on Facebook won’t pay for anything. They don’t have credit cards, they don’t want credit cards, and they are not interested in shopping. But you can trick them into doing one of three things:

  • Download a toolbar: It could be spyware (such as Zango) or something more legitimate, such as Webfetti or Zwinkys.
  • Give up their email address: You’ve won a “free” camera or perhaps you’ve been selected as a tester for a new Macbook Pro (which you get to keep at the end of the test). Just tell us where you want us to ship it.
  • Give up their phone number: You took the IQ Quiz, so give us your phone number and we’ll tell you your score. Never mind that you’ll get billed $20 a month or perhaps be tricked into inviting 10 other friends to beat your score.

iq-quiz-lp Method #3, getting their phone number, has been the most lucrative thing on Facebook, even more than the fake weight loss offers, for the last 2 years. As an ad network, we were at the mercy of what the game developers want—more money. Here’s what ad networks struggle with—to either run what ads make the most money or else be forced out by other ad networks willing to be shadier than them.

Publishers (game developers) chose whoever makes them the most money.

And that led to things like:

Showing personal data on landing pages: This got a couple ad networks banned—they took the user name and images and put them on landing pages, which increased conversion. This is the equivalent of steroids in Major League Baseball.

Cloaking: This is when you show a different page based on IP address. We and most other ad networks would geo-block northern California—showing different ads to Facebook employees than to other users around the world. One of the largest Facebook advertisers (I’m not going to out you, but you know who you are) employs this technique to this day, using a white-listed account. Our supposition is that it makes too much money for Facebook to stop him. Believe me, we have brought this to Facebook’s attention on several occasions. Here’s what this fellow does—he submits tame ads for approval, and once approved, redirects the url to the spammy page. To be fair, players like Google AdWords have had years more experience in this game to close such loopholes.

Sharks who smelled blood: I was contacted by every major ad network to either run their offer and/or help them optimize their ad platform. One CEO (not saying his name, but they’re on Comscore’s list of the top 25 ad networks) threatened physical violence if we didn’t cooperate with him. I got wined and dined like you wouldn’t believe. That’s how much money was at stake—whether on the game inventory or the self-serve ad platform.

Weak enforcement: Paul Jeffries, who enforced (or didn’t enforce, depending on your view) the platform rules, wanted to allow a laissez-faire economy, stepping in only when the violations were so egregious that his call center was getting flooded with complaints. He called me into a meeting and told me that my ads were costing him more in customer service than any revenue I was possibly generating. That pre-supposed that he knew what we were generating – in the high 5 figures a day. And most of that was profit, since we paid out only a fraction of what we earned. Remember that we had to beat only what Google AdSense generated.

There was no way that Facebook—and definitely not the Federal Trade Commission—could keep up with the “innovation” happening. Witness the virtual currency scam, where users complete the offers mentioned above to earn points in a game. It doesn’t take a genius to know that the quality of such leads is garbage—these users are filling out forms just to get the points.

They sign up for Netflix, a platinum credit card, get an auto insurance quote, whatever. The industry term for this type of traffic is called “incentivized”. The underlying advertiser is paying for these leads much like they would if they were coming from paid search. They may be told they’re getting incent traffic—or maybe not. Or maybe the ad network, the middleman between the advertiser (company paying for traffic) and publisher (source of traffic) is mixing PPC, email, and incent (also called social) traffic to hit certain quality thresholds.

Either way, the advertiser is usually blind—they can’t see the referral data (which is understandably masked) and they probably can’t figure out what’s going on anyway.

The three major ad networks that deal in incentivized (or virtual currency) are OfferPal, SuperRewards, and Q Interactive.

OfferPal is run by Anu Shukla—she and I have sat down before, where she flatly claimed that most of her offer inventory was unique (it was actually brokered from MemoLink, a company down the street from us in Denver). Ms. Shukla also touted her optimization technology, but couldn’t discuss it because of the proprietary nature—I’m sure you understand. You can watch her video with Arrington to judge for yourself.

SuperRewards is run by Jason Bailey (aka ChickenHole), who was able to quickly morph himself from Millnic Media to this new company. This fellow would call me up and yell at the top of his lungs, as I wouldn’t refund his money for setting up multiple accounts to game our network. I did refund his money, only once he agreed to a ban on our network.

Q Interactive is the quietest, but largest player of the group. Formerly coolsavings.com, it’s run by Matt Wise, and is, in my opinion, the most reputable of the bunch. They have Fortune 500 clients and a more massive bankroll and sophisticated technology platform. You won’t find information on their virtual currency platform, as they work with large publishers only.

The offers across all of these networks are similar. There is a lot of money to be made if you’re a game developer on the MySpace or Facebook platforms, so choose your ad networks wisely. Ad Networks are not going away soon, as the big brands aren’t there yet and someone must fill that vacuum.

In case I have thoroughly disillusioned you of all social advertising, let me prognosticate about a slightly brighter future:

When any new platform opens up, the spammers are there first: Traffic is cheap and their untargeted offers are profitable. But as legitimate advertisers come on, they bid the price of traffic up and squeeze out the spammers. The most powerful bit of social advertising, unlike traditional PPC, is the ability to target by interest and by location. And local represents 74% of Facebook’s ad revenues in 2009. That’s a deceptive stat, as it likely includes dating, which is technically “local” – but the point still stands.

Facebook will either clean things up or become a MySpace: Users loved the “trust” and “clean look” of Facebook. I believe Facebook will put controls in place on their fledgling platform, as told to me by the executive in charge of their online marketing. I honestly believe from my meetings at Facebook, that they’ve all drunk the Zucker-koolaid and are putting the user experience ahead of earnings. That’s why, if you’re a UK resident, you’re not seeing those sexy Russian dating ads from a couple months ago—but man, were those profitable. But you may continue to see these girls:

Deceptive ads will be gradually replaced by trusted ads: The underlying premise of all the advertising techniques we’ve discussed so far is that trickery is profitable. Fool them into thinking the new friend request is from Facebook, lie to them that the miracle skin crème is actually free, tell them they’ll earn points if they just click this button – which then puts their email address on a list that’s resold to the top spammers in the world. Incidentally, if you hate someone, sign them up for one of those free offers – it will burn their email to a crisp. Just kidding – don’t do that.

The local and big brand advertisers are slow to react, but will eventually shift their ad dollars to Facebook, as they figure out how to advertise effectively. Facebook is the “other Internet” and represents 25% of all pageviews in the US. What’s possible right now:

Imagine getting an ad on your birthday, saying “Happy Birthday, Nick! Mention FBCAKE and get a free slice of cake today at Jim’s Coffee Shop” (yes, you can target people on their birthdays).

What if you’re a B2B company and want to hit small businesses? You can target by job title and company. That’s not possible in traditional PPC, where a search for “massage” can be a consumer with stiff muscles, a student looking for a massage school, or a practitioner looking to buy massage supplies.

What if you’re Maggianos and want to target folks who like Olive Garden? You can hit precisely those fans—and even narrow down to where they live, how old they are, and if they are married. Then send them to the nearest location to book their wedding anniversary party.
 Are you a Denver liposuction doctor and want to target middle-aged females in upperclass neighborhoods who watch “Desperate Housewives” and like to eat chocolate?

What if Farmville could be sponsored by Albertsons and offer real fruits and vegetables on sale? Wouldn’t that be more powerful than clipping coupons from the daily newspaper?

It’s going to take a few years, but these legitimate advertisers will push out the scammers and Facebook will put more rules in place. Enforcement will tighten, but spammers are clever with shifting their entities, enough to make us all “dizzy”. We said that when these platforms first launched, earnings were in the 10 to 15 cent range. Then spammers raised the bar and could afford to pay $6 per thousand impressions (or about 20 cents a click) for the same inventory. But when the legitimate guys come with the hyper-targeted local ads, they can afford to pay $10 or even $50 per thousand impressions for that inventory. The spammers will be forced out of this particular game and onto whatever is next.

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Dennis Yu image
Companies: BlitzLocal

Dennis Yu is CEO of BlitzLocal, which does local advertising for professional service firms and franchised companies.

Prior to BlitzLocal, Dennis spent 4 years at Yahoo! doing analytics and Pay-Per-Click advertising, as well as 3 years at… Learn More

BlitzLocal image
Website: BlitzLocal.com
Location: Westminster, Colorado, United States
Founded: 2006
Funding: $125k

BlitzLocal serves retail and and franchised companies that need local presence. Founded by Dennis Yu in 2006, the company has grown to 50 employees and is headquartered in Westminster, Colorado.

The BlitLocal ad platform includes pay-per-click… Learn More

How To Spam Facebook Like A Pro: An Insider’s Confession.

Wisk-It, an App to Help Scrub Regrettable Photos From Facebook – NYTimes.com

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 3:45 pm
Tags:
Published: November 1, 2009

You there, you who dressed as a sexy panther this Halloween, and are now clicking through the weekend’s photos on Facebook. (The ones of you clutching a vodka and snarling like a kittycat are particularly nice.) Your boss, your exes and your mother are probably looking at them this morning, too. What’s a hungover cat to do?

The Wisk-It application for Facebook, from the makers of Wisk detergent.

There’s an app for that. Not an iPhone app, but a Facebook application from the detergent brand Wisk. Wisk-It, which will be formally introduced this week, promises to help get rid of objectionable photos.

Now, be clear about the limits of Wisk-It. It’s not going to restore the fallen bra strap to your shoulder, and it won’t Photoshop your broken heel back together. Wisk-It instead assembles a friend’s photographs (you can limit it to tagged pictures of you, or pull all of her photos), lets you identify the pictures you’d like the friend to remove, and then send a request her way. When the friend installs Wisk-It, it pulls up the offending photos and asks her to delete them.

“Currently, there’s really no easy way or efficient way to remove pictures, so we’re finding that we have cracked the efficient way to clean up your online profile,” said Elisa Gurevich, brand manager for Wisk, owned by the Sun Products Corporation.

The Facebook application, created by the agency TracyLocke, is part of a marketing update for Wisk, which Unilever sold to what is now Sun in 2008. Previously, it was known for its 1970s spots where dirty shirts taunted housewives with chants of “Ring around the collar! Ring around the collar!”

“We thought perhaps we could take our stain-fighting heritage, and take it online to Facebook,” Ms. Gurevich said.

The stain on your reputation, Wisk-It can’t do much about. Meow. STEPHANIE CLIFFORD

via Wisk-It, an App to Help Scrub Regrettable Photos From Facebook – NYTimes.com.

Wisk-It, an App to Help Scrub Regrettable Photos From Facebook – NYTimes.com.

October 29, 2009

Massive bot attack spoofs Facebook password messages

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 2:49 am
Tags: ,

‘Bredolab’ Trojan rides fake reset messages, reaches at least 735,000 users

By Gregg Keizer

October 28, 2009 03:56 PM ET

Computerworld – A massive bot-based attack has been hitting Facebook users, with nearly three-quarters of a million users receiving fake password reset messages, according to security researchers.

The attack, which began Monday afternoon, according to e-mail security vendor Cloudmark, targets Facebook users with a spoofed message that claims recipients’ Facebook passwords have been reset as a security measure. The messages, which come bearing subject lines such as “Facebook Password Reset Confirmation,” include a file attachment that supposedly contains the new password.

In fact, the attached .zip file includes a Trojan downloader, dubbed “Bredlab” by some antivirus companies, “Bredolab” by others. The downloader grabs a variety of malware from hacker servers, including fake security software, or “scareware,” and installs attack code and rogue antivirus applications on the compromised PCs.

Multiple security companies, including Symantec, Trend Micro, MX Lab and Websense, have put out warnings about the attack campaign. “This variant of Bredolab connects to a Russian domain and the infected machine is most likely becoming part of a Bredolab botnet,” said Shunichi Imano, a security researcher at Symantec, in a post to the firm’s security blog.

Jamie Tomasello, Cloudmark’s abuse operations manager, said today that her company alone has detected nearly three-quarters of a million phony Facebook messages since Monday, and nearly 250,000 in the last 24 hours. “Our count continues to go up, and is at about 735,000 now,” said Tomasello. “It’s a pretty high volume.”

According to Tomasello, both desktop clients and ISPs that use Cloudmark to filter potentially malicious mail have reported receiving the fake Facebook e-mail.

At least 8% of the users who have received one of the fake messages have tagged it as legitimate, going to the trouble of pulling the message from their junk folder — where Cloudmark has placed it — because they think it’s real, Tomasello said. Cloudmark has no data on how many users were actually duped into opening the .zip file and running the enclosed .exe that installs Bredolab, however.

“The numbers are equal to or higher than other Facebook malware or phishing campaigns,” Tomasello claimed. She said that Cloudmark is currently revising that 8% estimate upwards.

Because of its huge base — last month Facebook said it had more than 300 million users — the site is a frequent target for hackers and identity thieves.

Last March, for example, the Koobface worm made the rounds on Facebook, as well as other social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster, infecting large numbers of users.

Facebook confirmed that the attack is being conducted via e-mail, not on Facebook, the tactic that other malware, including Koobface, has used. “We’re educating users on how to detect this through the Facebook Security Page,” a Facebook spokesman said today. Users should be wary of suspicious or unexpected e-mail that claims to be from Facebook. “Facebook will never send you a new password as an attachment,” he added.

The Redemptive Value of Facebook

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 2:38 am
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Mike Pohlman

Executive Editor, The Gospel Coalition

Can Facebook be redemptive? In other words, can this social networking phenomenon be a means of helping Christians grow in grace? Can it be spiritually edifying? Can it promote godliness?

Yes.

My “yes,” of course, is not without qualification. I realize Facebook can be used for banal, unhelpful purposes. (Carl Trueman, for example, offers a good critique of our Web 2.0 world.) But today God’s grace was extended to me through the Internet; today Facebook was a blessing. Let me explain.

I was tagged in a friend’s list of “25 Random Things About Me.”* While I have yet to fill out one of these lists, I have enjoyed reading them. It is a good (and efficient) way to learn interesting things about a person. And these lists are all the more intriguing when you haven’t kept up with someone for, say, twenty years.

The particular list opened with this amazing declaration: “I would change nothing about my life!”

How many people can say that about their life? It’s one thing to say, “I love my life.” Or, “I have a great life.” Or, “I’m living the good life.” But to say, “I would change nothing about my life”? That got my attention.

The list of “random” things proceeded with unmistakable joy.

24. “I am very happy.”
18. “I am thrilled that I have gotten in touch with so many family members and friends on facebook.”
14. “I have two dogs and a cat. I am not big on pets, so having them is a testament to how much I love my children.”
13. “I don’t feel that I could have a more wonderful husband.”
12. “I have four children and wish I had more…..6 would have been nice!”
7. “A perfect day for me is spent with my husband and children.”

Reading these things was inspiring as they spoke to my friend’s deep love for her family. I smiled as I recalled how I used to play little league baseball and Pop Warner football with her husband. Now we both had four kids. More importantly, I found myself thinking about my wife and children and what a blessing they are to me. But then, as I continued down the list, I ran into these sobering statements:

6. “It is a good thing that my life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer.”
5. “My life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer.”

I didn’t know my friend had been diagnosed with cancer. I paused to let it sink in. Cancer. That word has a way of arresting our attention like no other. And rarely, it seems, is gratitude accompanied with it. But here in a list of “25 Random Things” was the phrase, “It is a good thing….” How could my friend preface any mention of cancer with “It is a good thing”?

The answer came at the end of the list:

1. “The LORD is always #1.”

This is the “thing” that makes all the difference in the universe. When the Lord is first in our lives then everything takes on new meaning–our marriages, parenthood, jobs, ministries, leisure time, and, yes, even cancer. We realize that nothing is truly “random.” When we see our heavenly Father in His providence orchestrating all our days then we can say radical things like, “It is a good thing that my life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer.” In other words, God used cancer to help me.

In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Tami’s light is shining brightly today and I’m giving glory to God for it.

[*All references to my friend’s “25 Random Things” used with permission.]

From Facebook to Faithbook

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 2:36 am
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Dan Johnson

HomeWord

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
John 4:28-30

Do you have a Facebook page? It’s a well-known website that allows people to upload photos, biography and contact information to network with other people. Mark Zuckerberg founded this social utility site while attending Harvard in 2004. Website membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but continued to expand to other colleges. Now students and non-students around the world connect to each other daily. Facebook had over 70 million visits to its site in April of 2008.

I couldn’t help but notice how friendships are rekindled and created on social networking sites and wondered if Christ followers might not learn something from this. Technology relies on the same old human behaviors to succeed. But having faith requires divine intervention for us to understand our need for God, and being faithful isn’t always easy in the offline world. Our faith spreads the old-fashioned way, one person reaching out to one person at a time.

There are similarities between our online lives and our “real” ones. To make friends online, we have to reach out. It’s as simple as clicking a button and requesting that someone be our “friend.” When we make new friends online, we get exposed to their ideas about life, their likes and dislikes; we get to know them. What’s really amazing is that we get to view their other friends who are listed there.

The real question is who is on our “Friends” list? Does it include all kinds of people or just folks who look, act and talk like us? I’ve been wondering lately what Jesus’ Facebook page would look like. We read about how He talked to women in a culture where open social contact with the opposite sex wasn’t allowed. He hung out with leaders who became His followers. He called common people to greatness. There was diversity in His crowd of followers and then unity in mission.

 

Today is a great day to look down the street and reconnect with some local friends and neighbors. It may also be the time to search out a forgotten friend. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be invited as a friend.

Perhaps consider doing an inventory of your friends. Are there some friends you need to reconnect with? Are there some new people you’d like to have over for dinner or talk to over a cup of coffee?

Instead of feeling anxiety or guilt about evangelism, is there a simple way you could reach out to someone and then see where God takes it from there?

Further Reading

Matthew 9:37-38; Matthew 28:18-20

Dan Johnson is the Lead Pastor of Next Church in Tacoma, Washington and CEO of the Next Leadership Association.

***Facebook users: Be sure to check out the Christianity.com Devotionals application! Get access to all of the devotionals you enjoy on Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com right on your profile page. Just type “Christianity.com Devotionals” into the Search function on Facebook to get started. Let your friends know!

Christians Foregoing Facebook for ‘Digital Fasting’

Filed under: Category — brucebaker111 @ 2:20 am
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Bobby Ross Jr.

Religion News Service

In the world of faith-based social networking, evangelical Christian leader Mark Oestreicher commanded a huge chunk of cyberspace.

Known as “Marko,” the technological hipster amassed 4,000 Facebook friends, 1,500 Twitter followers and 2,000 daily readers of his blog.

But then he decided he’d had enough — and unplugged from his online circle of friends.

“It’s not that I don’t think online connections are real. It’s just that they are perpetually superficial,” said Oestreicher, former longtime president of Youth Specialties, a company based in El Cajon, Calif., that specializes in youth pastor training materials and seminars.

In an age when many religious leaders embrace the latest technology and even “tweet” from the pulpit, some — like Oestreicher — are reassessing the potential negative impact of online overload.

“Unplugging has become essential to my spiritual journey and truly hearing God,” said Anne Jackson, an author, speaker, and volunteer pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn. “For me, all the noise can drown that out if I’m not careful.”

Jackson, author of the book “Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic,” maintains a church leadership blog at Flowerdust.net that draws 150,000 page views a month, by her estimate.

She has 6,700 Twitter followers.

But earlier this year, she closed her Facebook account — saying goodbye to 2,500 friends — and committed to spend less time on Twitter and her blog.

She finally acknowledged what her husband had hinted for a while:

She had become a little obsessed with her online persona.

“For me, Facebook was a problem,” Jackson wrote in an essay titled, “Why I Kissed Facebook Goodbye.”

“I don’t believe everyone should quit using Facebook, or be afraid of it if one hasn’t started,” she added. “We just need to be aware of the ways any form of media can interrupt our time with God or those closest to us.”

Balance is the key, said Peggy Kendall, an associate professor of communication studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., who has researched the impact of technology on society.

She bristles at the notion that online connections are “perpetually superficial.”

“While there are certainly limitations to online communication, there are also significant benefits to communicating online that one can only rarely experience face to face,” said Kendall, author of the forthcoming book “Reboot: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World.”

In the old days of youth ministry, a pastor might endure years of junior high gym nights and overnight retreats before a student would feel comfortable enough to share deep hurts and uncertainties and ask authentic questions, she said.

But in an age of texting and instant messaging, a student might divulge “intensely personal things” within days of getting to know the youth pastor, Kendall said.

Students “have found that the hyperpersonal nature of online communication provides them a safe place to be real and communicate freely,” she said.

Rather than unplug entirely, Kendall advocates that people of faith periodically “fast” from technology — to assess what’s helpful about their online activities and what’s simply distracting.

This concept has become a “huge conversation” in the classes that theology professor Dillon Burroughs teaches at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“I call it `digital fasting,’ although I recommend short breaks since it is like asking someone my parent’s age to stop using a phone or reading a newspaper,” said Burroughs, a former pastor who networks extensively with ministry leaders and has more than 38,000 Twitter followers.

During the week, the Rev. Margot Starbuck, a mother of three who works as a writer and speaker, said she writes, blogs and typically replies to e-mails within minutes of receiving them.

“If I’m not at my computer, I’m wondering what I’m missing,” said Starbuck, an ordained Presbyterian pastor who lives in Durham, N.C. “I check e-mail first thing in the morning and often as the last thing I do before bedtime. I am not proud of that.”

Even on Sundays, when she wasn’t technically working, she found herself staying busy with e-mail and computer games.

So, she implemented what she calls “Unplugged Sabbath” — no computer all day long.

“When I wake up in the morning, when I’d typically start mentally tuning in to work on the computer, I find I have nothing better to do than crawl in bed with my daughter,” Starbuck said.

“After worship, when I don’t have to be about my own business, I’m freed up to take a hike with my family and be entirely present to them,”

she added. “By the time evening rolls around, I don’t even want to check the e-mail that’s backed up all day.”

In Oestreicher’s case, he said he’s not suggesting that everyone delete online profiles and stop using the Internet.

Rather, he said he made a personal decision to choose “best over good” and stop constantly checking his Blackberry for updates.

Trying to maintain hundreds — and even thousands — of online connections distracted from his real-life relationships with his family and colleagues, he said.

Months after unplugging, he voiced surprise at how little withdrawal pains he experienced.

“I think that was primarily because I so immediately saw a return of four things I was hoping for: time, presence, focus and creativity,” he said. “My family could tell the difference, and my co-workers also. It was rather astounding, actually.”

c. 2009 Religion News Service. Used with permission.

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