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Adam Slaney Facebook Warning: Real or DoS attack?

SUMMARY:  Adam Slaney warning (or the latest one about “Richard Peel” or “ASHLEY MARC JAMES” or “”CHRISTOPHER BUTTERFIELD” or “Simon Ashton” on FaceBook) is fake.

Social media has great potential, both good and bad. It can find you help in a hurry or cause you tons of frustration. Today I had to do some investigation to determine if Facebook was the unsuspecting abettor in a “denial of service” (DoS) social network attack.

We geeks recognize a DoS attack when hackers send so many requests to a page (or so many emails, etc.), that it crashes the server, putting your website out of commission until your security team can combat the offending spam. Another DoS attack, often categorized under ‘cyberbullying’ (or, what I like to call Social Network Abuse), can be waged by one user with a way to reach many on-line contacts.

Here’s an example of how a personal DoS works: Gus has a problem with Jay. Gus and Jay share social networks and use many of the same on-line applications like MySpace and Facebook, including some chat rooms. Almost every social media application has some sort of ‘flagging’ option. Gus ‘flags’ every single one of Jay’s posts, and gets his friends to do the same, despite whether Jay’s posts are inappropriate or threatening violence. Gus is trying to get Jay automatically banned from the service. The code behind the flagging option will most likely ban Jay based solely on the number of flag clicks he has received. Jay will have a hard time contacting a human behind the service to get a personal review of his posts so he can be reinstated to the service.

Another example of a personal DoS is email abuse. Gus can send out an anonymous email to everyone stating that Jay is a hacker and that he should be blocked on all services. This type of email plays on fears that media escalate about the supposed danger of the internet, so it can turn viral quickly.

Today I received this message on my FunWall on Facebook:

“If somebody called adam.slaney@ hotmail.co.uk adds you to their facebok account/invites you to be their friend DON’T accept it because it’s a hacker. Tell everyone on your list because if somebody on yours adds them, you get them on your list and he’l figure out your ID computer addesss. So copy and paste this message to everyone even if you don’t like them and fast..because if he hacks their mail, he hacks yours”

Although I know and trust the sender, my ‘Bullshit Meter” registered a bit high. I fiercely protect my online contacts’ email addresses; I decided to go through my usual check before I forwarded the message to everyone in my address book.

First, I checked Snopes.com for the email address “adam.slaney@ hotmail.co.uk” and “adam slaney.” No hits (yet). I then searched on ’email hack’ and found nothing relevant.

I then googled the email address and found only a few entries. One was from a site called Tech Wars, and it was simply a reprinting of the warning above, with no discussion.

I found some pages that look like the personal sites of ‘adam slaney:’

http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam_Slaney/1185473029

http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam_Slaney/1185473029#/srch.php?nm=Adam%20Slaney

http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=741850737

So far, I haven’t found anything terribly suspicious. Seems like there may be a guy called ‘Adam Slaney’ who is from the UK. But there is one other thing to keep in mind: this may not be DoS attack, it could just be a hoax. I checked the source code of the bebo.com page but didn’t see any date stamps to see if the page was very recent.

The next thing to consider is the content of the warning.

he’l figure out your ID computer addesss”

Spelling errors aside (a sure indicator of ‘spam!’), let’s look at this claim. Anyone that you email to, any blog you comment on, pretty much anywhere you go on the internet is marked with your address, called ‘IP’ (not ID). This is a rule for everyone, and an IP address is easy to find. There really isn’t a threat there. The unwritten implication in the warning is that evil Adam Slaney will “hack” your email address or, at the very least, spam it. Although spam is quite possible if anyone finds your email address, it is hardly a threat worthy of taking the risk of annoying my contacts with a panicky and possibly false warning. If you have a decent password and service provider, the chances of your email getting hacked by a stranger is very close to nil. You should worry more about your friends, kids or spouses who find your password; those are the people that abuse others’ email addresses the most.

DoS attack, hoax, or prank, this warning is false. Please don’t forward it. Whether or not Adam Slaney is a real person, an evil hacker or an innocent victim is irrelevant. The warning has no substance. I choose to keep my opportunities to group email my contacts with true warnings of a real wolf, if one ever shows up.

**UPDATE** Twitter to the rescue: c64glen (Glen McNamee) found this page on Snopes, that has a very close version of the email above:

http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/dontadd.asp

**UPDATE**  New version of fake email hacker warning on FaceBook: (gathered on June 28, 2008):

“If somebody called richard peel adds you to their facebok account/invites you to be their friend DON’T accept it because it’s a hacker. Tell everyone on your list because if somebody on yours adds them, you get them on your list and he’l figure out your ID computer addesss. So copy and paste this message to everyone even if you don’t like them and fast..because if he hacks their mail, he hacks yours”

**UPDATE** April, 2009.  New warning collected in Facebook:
“ATTENTION!!!*** Do not accept a friend request from a CHRISTOPHER BUTTERFIELD he is a hacker. Tell everyone on your list because if somebody on your list adds him u get him on your list too and he’ll figure out your computer’s ID and address, so copy and paste this message to everyone even if you don’t care for them cause if he hacks their email he hacks your email too. CUT AND PASTE THIS : IN whats on your mind.”

Snopes is in on it now too: http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/hackermail.asp

**UPDATE** January, 2010. New warning collected in Facebook:
“DO NOT ACCEPT THESE 4 AS FRIENDS, CLAUDIA RIVALTA, DANIELA MAINARDI, SARAH MARIE THOMPSON AND SARA WETTLAUFER “THEY ARE HACKERS, TELL EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST BECAUSE IF SOMEBODY ADDS THEM, YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE HACKED TOO. COPY THIS TEXT TO YOUR PROFILE… DO NOT BE LAZY, PLEASE POST TO YOUR WALL3….was asked to pass this on.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Denise 6 June 2008, 1:14 pm

    Thanks — I just got one of these Adam Slaney warnings and my BS meter started vibrating too. Thanks for doing the legwork.

  • tojosan 7 June 2008, 9:55 pm

    Great share. Stuff like this is way too common and all too often folks buy it hook, line and sinker. Glad you shared this and in so much detail. I’ve received similar posts and just dismissed them thankfully. Been playing that game since the early 90s on BBSs sadly.

    Good stuff.

    • PurpleCar 7 June 2008, 10:42 pm

      Denise and Tojosan, Thanks! And thanks for commenting!

      I was motivated to get to the bottom of it when a very trusted friend sent it to me via Facebook. To me, it seemed fake immediately, but we ALL get caught up in spam sometimes. I wonder if there is some DoS plot against the slaney kid… but I can’t fight that battle.

      • sisterwoman 18 June 2009, 9:15 am

        Here we are a ywear later, and I’ve had avout a half dozen Facebook frineds send it to me, I finally posted this to my page toget them all to chill! 🙂

  • Bellepheron 9 June 2008, 9:58 am

    This is one reason I do not have an active facebook account. I disabled mine simply because of the fact that I prefer to remain slightly more anonymous than others.

  • wms 9 June 2008, 2:02 pm

    Just wanted to say thanx… I went through pretty much the same sequence to arrive at the same conclusion… now convincing others that this is a hoax is about as likely as convincing my mum that she won’t get bags of M&Ms or millions from Microsoft for sending emails to all her family and friends. Some people just can’t be convinced of the truth.
    More power to you.
    All the best.
    wms out.

  • Lawrence Lean 10 June 2008, 10:01 pm

    Good digging… I figured the spelling mistake in the message I got was by the author (1 degree removed) but my smell-o-meter was still on, hence googling and finding your check out … its a tough world out there, and some folks for good or bad, try to do things that end up improving security by finding the hack and breaking it to pieces.

  • Cerina 14 June 2008, 5:11 pm

    Like you, my BS meter started to scream at me. I check all this sort of thing before I send it on because I get annoyed at the number I get from friends who don’t bother to check the veracity.
    Your’s was the only site that came up with anything worth reading about this one and I will do what I do with most of the others … bin it.
    Cheers … happy BS free weekend.

  • Christine 21 June 2008, 7:11 am

    Thanks for this, I saw it on a friend’s facebook wall and my BS meter started to twitch also. Will let my friend know discretely so they can remove it if they want to.

  • Michael 5 July 2008, 8:03 pm

    thanks, whenever i receive warnings or promises of things, i like to research them on several different sites before i make my own decision. thanks for having done (some) of the research for me.

  • PurpleCar 5 July 2008, 8:51 pm

    Thanks, guys, I hope it helped. Michael, is there research that you’ve done that I missed? Please let us in on your methods. Any hints to fight spam effectively are much appreciated!

  • stevieb 11 July 2008, 10:19 am

    Cheers!

    The minute I received this message I did a seach and found your page straight away! Glad my BS detector is on alert

  • stevieb 11 July 2008, 10:19 am

    Ta

  • parlophone 16 July 2008, 5:57 am

    Whenever anybody posts something like this, I remove them as my friends, because clearly they are too stupid to be worthy of my friendship.

  • willsherwood 19 July 2008, 7:06 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to explore this issue. Like you, as soon as I saw it, my bullsh*t meter went off.

  • Anonymous 30 July 2008, 5:40 pm

    Thanks! I just got the Richard Peel one on Facebook and was like, “This has GOT to be a hoax!” So I checked snopes for Richard Peel and didn’t find anything, so I googled it and this popped up. Thanks again!

  • moonflower 13 August 2008, 1:43 am

    Thank you very much for checking this out. I just got one through facebook on richard peel. Glad I thought to search it in case it was bs first.

  • Cynthia Wood 13 August 2008, 2:30 am

    Thanks – had this Facebook message and thought it was probably a hoax and now had it confirmed.

  • Sally Ann Slaney 13 August 2008, 8:15 am

    FYI Adam Slaney is my son, and this was a stupid prank set by his elder brother,(still bullying him at the age of 32). He thought it was funny at the time but now realises how crazy it was.. It has caused Adam untold problems as he tries to run a small business from his computer. It has gone all over the world and back, I still get warnings now.
    Would appreciate any advise as to how we can reverse the damage done.
    Sally A Slaney

    • PurpleCar 13 August 2008, 9:33 am

      Hi Sally Ann Slaney,

      As you painfully know, practical jokes are best left to whoopie cushions and kept well away from Facebook and the web. Starting a fake viral warning is a libelous act and can be proved in court. You can’t have one son bring legal charges against another, though.

      I’m sorry your sons underestimated the viral ability of the internet. It’s a mistake that many others will make in the next 5 years. Hopefully websites’ Terms of Service, international law, and common sense will catch up to this wild west by then.

      In the meantime:

      *Have your son Adam contact Facebook if he hasn’t already. I haven’t looked closely at Facebook’s Terms of Service, but perhaps they can help even if there isn’t a violation they must at upon (I have little faith that they will do anything unless legally forced to, but it is worth a try).

      *Contact the other Adam Slaneys I found on Facebook and ask them to present a united front to the Facebook guys.

      *Contact Snopes.com and ask them to add your son’s name to the entry that I linked to above.

      *Contact your state rep to see what is happening in your state’s legislature and federally. You may want to get involved that way, to give some meaning to this ridiculousness. If you can help stop it from happening to my son (who is 2 years old right now), I and other moms around the world would deeply appreciate it.

      People have changed their legal names after such incidents, so it is no small matter. It may take years if not decades for this to die down. I haven’t seen this particular fake warning anywhere other than Facebook, but it will probably leak to places like myspace.com, Twitter.com, et al., and continue ad infinitum. If your son is serious about building an on-line presence for his business, he should gather solid evidence on how this interrupts those goals (don’t make decisions based on ‘feelings’ about the internet. Get measureable data). If the “bad press” proves to be insurmountable, I suggest he start using his middle name, change his name, and/or change his company’s brand name, and move on.

      I’m sorry there isn’t much more I can offer you. Maybe my readers have some helpful suggestions to add. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

      -Christine (PurpleCar)

      • Amy Hampton 15 August 2008, 9:24 am

        I have just been emailed this warning so unfortunately its leaked out of facebook already.

  • Ebrahim 15 August 2008, 2:41 am

    A huge thanks for the info…Its amazing what seems like a simple prank can snowball and turn into an avalanche. Best of luck to Adam Slaney.

  • Busby SEO Test!!! 9 January 2009, 2:58 pm

    thanks for the info. it makes clear enough.

  • Auto Insurance 15 January 2009, 8:27 pm

    Hi, thanks for that message on Facebook, I do not know about that.

  • sambly 13 March 2009, 4:20 pm

    Update new version:
    IF SOMEONE NAMED RICHARD PEEL OR ASHLEY MARC JAMES SENDS YOU A FRIEND REQUEST PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT IT, ONE IS A HACKER AND THE OTHER IS A VIRUS THAT KILLS YOUR HARD DRIVE. FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE ON YOUR FRIEND LIST BECAUSE IF ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS ADDS EITHER OF THESE PEOPLE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO HACK AND INFECT EVERYONE ON THAT FRIEND LIST – INCLUDING YOU.

  • sambly 13 March 2009, 4:22 pm

    Update new version:
    IF SOMEONE NAMED RICHARD PEEL OR ASHLEY MARC JAMES SENDS YOU A FRIEND REQUEST PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT IT, ONE IS A HACKER AND THE OTHER IS A VIRUS THAT KILLS YOUR HARD DRIVE. FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYONE ON YOUR FRIEND LIST BECAUSE IF ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS ADDS EITHER OF THESE PEOPLE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO HACK AND INFECT EVERYONE ON THAT FRIEND LIST – INCLUDING YOU.

  • fedups 14 June 2009, 10:11 pm

    Thank you- I really dislike people who just fwd everything….

  • Sarah<3 18 June 2009, 10:06 pm

    So it’s safe to accept their friend requests just to shove it in your friends’ faces because they keep sending you those annoying messages?

    • PurpleCar 19 June 2009, 5:33 am

      Sarah,

      There isn’t any hacking risk to accepting a friend request on Facebook. You can accept any requests you like. Accepting friend requests from the people listed in this note (or any new ones that come along) won’t do any harm, to you or your computer. It’s just not how hacking works. A hacker needs your password, for any site that has password protection on the internet (like Facebook). Even friends on Facebook don’t get to view your password, nor could they hack their way to it just because of the friend connection.

      Believe me, if there were a way to hack friend connections, the hackers would have already done it by now. How would Facebook survive if they didn’t code this basic security into the platform? These types of emails are just hogswash, meant as a joke or denial-of-service attack on others. They also spread TRULY unnecessary fear. So yes, friend Adam Slaney and the others. They’ll be able to see everything you haven’t marked private, but they will never be able to navigate to your password, let alone a totally different email account on totally different servers with totally different companies (The whole “warning” is ridiculous).

      -PC

  • Rich Peel 13 August 2009, 9:08 am

    All people named Richard Peel do not have the interest in Hacking or infecting anyones hard drive. Rich Peel is a well known Jewelry merchant on Amazon.com
    for the past 10 years. And is too busy to be trying to infect anyone computers.

  • PurpleCar 13 August 2009, 11:39 am

    Hi Rich!

    So sorry your name ended up in this mess – it really can happen to anybody. As you can see by my updates, new names get added consistently. I’m not sure there is much you can do. Friends of (or enemies) of a Richard Peel probably started the meme and it took off. Keep this link handy and just send it on whenever anyone asks. Perhaps people are getting so used to spam and personal Denial of Service attacks, that they won’t think that you are a hacker.

    Did Facebook suspend your account? Have you run into any trouble because of this? Let me know, and let me know if your name shows up in any other spam like this.

    Good luck!

    =PC

  • Mike Finding 7 November 2009, 7:04 am

    Great article from .. way back in 2008???!! And I have just received a note from a friend in Facebook about the very same thing!!
    I always check these now as I too value my contacts etc! No matter how often I tell the sender (if I know them) to check the hoax sites etc – they still come in!!
    Thanks for this I will pass this on to the sender!!
    Have great weekend!
    Bye for now
    Mike

    • PurpleCar 7 November 2009, 7:27 am

      MIke: I KNOW! Back in 2008! Isn’t that a shame that this Adam Slaney hoax on Facebook is still making the rounds?

      I don’t watch my blog stats, but whenever I pass my Wordpress Dashboard, this post is always at the top. It’s gotten, literally, thousands of views. I keep adding the new names that get put on the spam email, so people can just search on the name and find out it’s hoax. Snopes is wonderful, but they can’t keep adding every new name that comes down the pike. If you see any new names in the hoax, please come back to purplecar.net and let me know, or find me on facebook as facebook.com/christinecavalier/

      And don’t worry too much about your friends. Everyone is in a learning stage right now. It’s only been 10 years or so of widespread internet access, and it’s a scary place. There is very little regulation, protection or education about it. Try to have some patience with the end users. (Of course, I say this, but I rip my hair out over their inane behaviors on a weekly basis.)

      Thanks for checking in!

      Peace!
      -PurpleCar
      http://www.purplecar.net/

      ________________________________

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