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Sunday, 17 March 2013 20:26

Facebook - I need your help

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Dear Facebook, Someone is irregularly trying to log into my account, either that or there's something wrong with your system.

Every few days, I receive a Facebook-derived message to my connected email account:

Hi David,

Sorry you've been having trouble logging into your Facebook account.

The message also includes some buttons allowing me a quick way to log back in (via some magically crafted one-time URL). Oddly, all four links in the email appear to be identical.

The problem is, I haven't had a problem! From the occasional times that I have mis-typed my password, I know that a message such as this is dispatched within seconds, so I can only assume that it is showing an attempt on my account.

I asked some pals about this and they all said, are you sure the URLs are correct? They probably look OK, but are likely to be similar to Facebook's but are sending you off to some eastern European botnet (figuratively speaking, of course).

So, in my chrome browser I hovered over the links and looked at where it's re-written in the lower-left corner. Try as hard as I might, I couldn't see anything wrong with the URL. It started with facebook.com and was filled with lots of (seemingly) randomised characters in the usual fashion of a one-time URL.

In fact, here it is (with my email address and some of the random characters 'modified'):

https://www.facebook.com/n/?index.php&;mid=8af7a62G5d318bc8G4609550G87&bcode=1.1363508532.AbmBL0kl_ybguTcY&n_m=david.heath%40example.com

Click on the link and it will automatically open Facebook (if you have it configured for auto-login) or will open a login page (with david.heath@example.com prefilled as the login email address).

However, there's more to it than that.

I decided to check the message more closely, so I opened the Gmail message as source and try as hard as I might, could not find the URL anywhere. I could see the text of the message, but very little else of interest (aside from the headers of dozens of other messages I'd opened, but that's another story!).

BTW, if you save the HTML etc of the Gmail page; 148K of content! Much of it code.

So, here's my conundrum. What on earth is this email message? Did it really come from Facebook? Why is it so strangely crafted? Are people trying to log in to my Facebook account? Is anyone else seeing these, or am I special?  A request to Facebook's Australian PR (in January) for any kind of response remains unanswered.

I'd love to hear of others with the same messages.


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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