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The wave of pornographic and violent images that flooded Facebook over the past few days has drawn attention to a side of the social networking mega-site most of its users don’t think about:

Facebook is a coveted prize for hackers.

“It’s hard to put it into perspective as to how good a job they’re doing (at preventing spam), because they have a giant target on their back,” said Chester Wisniewski, a senior analyst with security firm Sophos. “They have a giant target on their back with the user base they have. Every spammer’s got a dream of catching them.”

In this week’s attack, a hack that exploited security flaws in some Web browsers sent images of porn, Photoshopped pictures of celebrities in compromising positions and images of intense violence to millions of users, according to Facebook. Users apparently were duped into copying malicious code into their browser windows, helping the images spread.

Many Facebook users were outraged by the fact that porn made its way onto the social network. On one hand, the offensive images call into question Facebook’s ability to rein in spam as it becomes more popular. On the other, it’s a counterintuitive testament to Facebook’s spam-fighting abilities that users were surprised to see these nasty images showing up on the social network.

If this happened on e-mail, after all, no one would blink.


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