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:’
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:
**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.”