We are all victims of Facebook manipulation

Facebook has taken a battering recently, and what many users have spotted is that there is a massive gap between how the company operates and the PR messages it sends to the world.

Look at some of the messages that Mark Zuckerberg sent out in 2012, the year it acquired Instagram and brought Sheryl Sandberg to its boardroom table:

“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.”

“I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.”

“At Facebook we believe that the need to open up and connect is what makes us human. It’s what brings us together. It’s what brings meaning to our lives.”

It all sounds very warm and worthy. Yet there were other things going on behind the scenes that were not so ethical, as revealed in a collection of internal Facebook emails published online by Damian Collins, a UK Member of Parliament. As Motherboard points out, the content includes exchanges between Zuckerberg and Sandberg discussing the company’s business model and how it leverages our data to make money.

Collins wrote in his summary of the documents, “Facebook knew that the changes to its policies on the Android mobile phone system, which enabled the Facebook app to collect a record of calls and texts sent by the user would be controversial,” adding, “To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app.”

He then tweeted: “I believe there is considerable public interest in releasing these documents. They raise important questions about how Facebook treats users data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market.”

Essentially, the internal emails include details on the distribution of Facebook’s various apps. They reveal how the company worked very closely with some app developers to give them access to user data, and how the company specifically incentivizes sharing on the platform in order to feed that data back to advertisers. The emails also include information about how the company tried to hide and downplay the amount of data that it collected from the Android version of the Facebook app.

Needless to say, Facebook has responded by saying that the emails “are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.”

Of course, we can’t blame Facebook for wanting to make a profit, but as Colin Horgan writes, “These emails, however, reveal a core dissonance between the idea Facebook sought to market to its billion-plus users for years, and how those users were leveraged in a business sense.”

Facebook users thought they were part of an idealistic project, when in fact they were being used for much darker purposes, as the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed. The fact that the UK’s parliament is exposing the media giant on its website indicates the extent of the distaste for how Facebook conducts its affairs.

One thing is for sure, as Facebook users we do not have an equal relationship with the company, as it has promoted; instead it is entirely based on inequality, because, ultimately, Facebook has benefited a lot more than its users have.

The Malware Hunter

Avoiding malware, which can invade your computer via phishing emails or malicious sites, is a common preoccupation. You only have to click on the wrong thing and you’ve caught a ‘botnet’ that may attack your business website or spread a virus.

But, now it looks like help is on the way, albeit in a rather unusual, roundabout way. Netlab 360 has identified a type of botnet that can search for specific malware infections without harming your computer. What is more, once it has hunted down and eliminated the ‘bad botnet’, it deletes itself from your computer.

Netlab 360 engineer, Hui Wang, has called it ‘Fbot’, although nobody knows who created it, which is one of the interesting parts of this story. But, whoever is responsible for it, has basically designed a bot that does a much-needed job.

The way it works is like this, according to Jon Christian writing in futurism.com: “Fbot first infects computers that leave a specific port vulnerable to attack. Then it searches its new hosts for a piece of malware called com.ufo.miner, which uses infected computers to mine the cryptocurrency Monero — and eradicates it.”

Wang says, “So far, the only purpose of this botnet looks to be just going after and removing another botnet.” Other unusual aspects of the bot are:

· The bot does not use traditional DNS to communicate with the C2, instead, it utilises blockchain DNS to resolve the non-stand C2 name musl.lib.

· It appears to have strong links to the original satori botnet.

Coindesk has also commented on the new discovery, saying “Unusually, the botnet code is linked to a domain name accessible, not through a standard domain name system (DNS), but a decentralized alternative called EmerDNS that makes addresses harder to trace and shut down.”

And researchers also pointed out: “The choice of Fbot using EmerDNS other than traditional DNS is pretty interesting, it raised the bar for security researcher to find and track the botnet (security systems will fail if they only look for traditional DNS names).”

Either way, everyone is extremely curious about who is behind the botnet — is it somebody working with good intentions, or is it a hacker trying to remove the competition. Perhaps we will never know.