Video Calling Trend Adds A New Face To Social Networks

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Facebook Video Calling with Skype is attracting interest from all sides of the industry, including scammers

The Facebook Video Calling feature using Skype’s network has attracted generally favourable comments from the industry. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have overhyped the product by using the word “awesome” but a two-click video link is, at the very least, interesting.

As a new medium in the social networking sphere, there is a lot to be learnt about its relevance and applications. But one dissenting voice is Paul Ducklin, head of technology for Sophos Asia Pacific, who fears it all may end in spear phishing.

Fakebook Chats Are Already Appearing

It seems his concerns about con tricks may not be unfounded because his colleague Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor at Sophos Canada, has discovered a scam. This uses the fact that Facebook chose to call its Skype collaboration Video Calling rather than Video Chat.

The fake feature calls itself Video Chat and comes as an invitation to download an app which asks for access to your personal Facebook information and then spams all your friends. Wisniewski advises that would-be users should only sign up through the official Facebook page or when called by a friend.

Ducklin envisages larger-scale scams in his blog post.

“Watch out for calls from hijacked accounts, or from borderline ‘friends’, just as you ought to do via any other messaging service, including email,” he warns. “Scammers must be licking their lips at a low-cost way of getting literally in your face. Old scams have a way of seeming new and unexpected when they migrate to a new medium.”

He selects the “Stranded in [foreign location]” ruse using a bad video and audio link, or a “Fake Support Call” scam as likely candidates.

Seeing Is Believing

Ducklin forsees a user getting a call from a hijacked friend’s account or a seemingly-official Facebook account. On one hand it is someone posing to be a friend penniless and in deperate need of funds in some foreign clime, or, in the other scenario, someone posing as a Facebook or Skype engineer offering to fix your Facebook page for a fee.

He advises caution with any call. “Check via an alternative channel if your friend really is in trouble. Give them a phone call. Ask a mutual friend. Is the friend-in-trouble even in [foreign location]?” he writes.

Alternatively: “Hang up. You didn’t ask for help, so even if you think you need help now, consult a real-world friend you know and trust. Ask them to guide you.”

The first scam seems a difficult trick to pull off because it would have to find someone you did not know well – and you’d be unlikely to offer a virtual stranger money. But stranger things have happened.

In a broader sweep of comments, Video Calling is seen as having knock-on effects for the companies involved in rolling it out. When Microsoft completes its purchase of Skype, it will automatically gain a presence in the social networking world via Facebook. Both Skype/Microsoft and Facebook will be looking towards mobilising the service. Video Calling is not yet designed for smartphones, where it would perhaps have a greater value, but this will probably be the next phase.

Ovum principal analyst Eden Zoller commented, “The Facebook/Skype tie up brings together two of the most popular communications service providers online and the video chat feature should prove a hit with Facebook’s 750 million users.

“We would also expect Facebook’s video chat service to develop a strong mobile play, given that at least half of Facebook’s user base interact with the social network via mobile, and also because Microsoft is determined to take Skype in this direction. A deepening Facebook, Microsoft and Skype alliance is on the cards and is a powerful prospect and one that will keep Google awake at night,” she observed.

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