Fighting for Facebook: A WAFF 48 News Special Report - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Fighting for Facebook: A WAFF 48 News Special Report


Facebook has over 800 million users. It's the largest social website in the world. But you may not have heard of Koobface.

Huntsville computer whiz Brian Tanner knows the drill all too well. You would receive a message from a Facebook friend telling you to click on the video link. Then it would take you to a bogus site that looked like YouTube.

"Before you can watch it, it takes you to install flash play to view the video. So you download it and now you're infected with Koobface," said Tanner. 

Koobface is a malware that a group of hackers used to target Facebook users, starting in 2008.

Since it supposedly was sent to you by a friend, it seemed harmless. But Tanners says if your friend was infected with Koobface, it would start sending the link to all of his friends. Once you clicked, a message with your name would be sent to other friends.

The hackers would make money by selling fake anti-virus software, and by creating those annoying pop-up ads for businesses.

As a graduate student at UAB, Tanner was intrigued by this particular virus.

Tanner and Gary Warner, the director of UAB's Forensics Research, embarked on a project to defeat it.

They joined a handful of other people in that battle.

"They would come out with some new version. The good guys would figure it out. Ok, what does it do? What's different about it?" said Tanner.

Tanner would send his findings on to Facebook, who would take that data and use it as ammunition.

It would prove to be a two-year battle, and a victory for Tanner and the good guys. In early 2011, the group of hackers driving Koobface were driven off the Facebook website.

Nine months later, Facebook issued this statement to it's users, explaining what had happened.

Tanner doesn't do it for the fame or fortune, although his job saves companies, like Facebook, a fortune.

In fact, this group of five Koobface hackers made off with between $2 and $3 million.

"It's a good feeling to be recognized for it. A lot of stuff we weren't able to talk about before. For Facebook to make that public is great," said Tanner. 

Having those credentials as a college student made for some good job offers for Tanner, including the one he took in Huntsville at Sentar.

They have contracts with the Department of Defense and NASA that make internet security crucial.

The five hackers involved with Koobface were traced to Russia. They have not been arrested yet.

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