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Avoid being scammed by sites/articles offering Social network hacks

Also Known As: Social network hacks hoax
Damage level: Medium

What is "Social network hacks"?

"Social network hacks" is a large-scale scam promoted through several different campaigns. This scheme is disguised as providing resources for hacking social networking/media and service (e.g. streaming) accounts.

The "hacking tools" are supposedly capable of hijacking Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, TikTok and Netflix accounts (possibly, those of other large platforms as well). These "resources" were observed being promoted via compromised official websites, where they were presented as hacking articles.

Another technique was the injection of these scam articles into the topmost Google search engine results when a directly or tangentially-related query was searched. The deceptive articles redirected to various harmful sites, which endorsed malware under the guise of "hacking tools", requested personal and financial information (i.e phishing) or otherwise misused users' trust.

Note that web pages associated with or similar to the "Social network hacks" scam are often unintentionally accessed through redirects caused by intrusive advertisements or Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) already infiltrated into the system.

Social network hacks scam promoted in the official UNESCO website

The articles associated with the "Social network hacks" scam were posted without authorization on official websites owned by legitimate organizations, governmental entities and educational institutions.

At the time of research, the official UNESCO, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Arizona State University, Maryland University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan and University of Washington websites were exploited, and the government sites of Colorado, Minnesota and San Diego.

The "hacking resources" were posted as articles/PDF files on the compromised websites or inserted into Google search results. Typically, the articles include links to "hacking" sites, which redirect to deceptive/scam or malicious web pages.

From there, users may be taken through the "hacking" steps or presented with online tools, allegedly capable of allowing access to certain accounts. When the instructions are followed and provided tools used, people are redirected to another scam/malicious site or are asked to download and install a file to start the "hacking" process.

The promoted files often contain malware (e.g. Trojans, ransomware, cryptominers, etc.), though in some cases they proliferate PUAs (e.g. adware, browser hijackers, etc.). Alternatively, the pages users are redirected to may ask them to provide personal information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, emails, banking account and credit card details.

To summarize, trusting content relating to the "Social network hacks" scam is likely to result in especially serious problems, including (but not limited to) system infections, financial loss, serious privacy issues and identity theft.

PUAs are one of the main causes of rogue redirects to dubious web pages. These unwanted apps can force-open sale-oriented/promotional, dubious, deceptive/scam, compromised and malicious sites. Adware-type PUAs can deliver intrusive ads (e.g. pop-ups, banners, full-page, etc.).

These promote similarly dangerous websites and some can even be triggered to stealthily download/install unwanted software. Browser hijackers can modify browser settings and restrict access to them to promote fake search engines. Furthermore, most PUAs (regardless of type) have data tracking capabilities.

They can monitor browsing activity (browsing and search engine histories) and gather personal information (IP addresses, geolocations and other details).

The collected data is then shared with and/or sold to third parties (potentially, cyber criminals). Therefore, to ensure device integrity and user safety, you are strongly advised to eliminate all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Social network hacks hoax
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.
Fake Claim Hacking tools for the accounts of various platforms.
Related Domains iget4free[.]com, hackfbpass[.]com, bestgames[.]pw, instagramhackonline[.]com, securityhack[.]net
Symptoms Fake error messages, fake system warnings, pop-up errors, hoax computer scan.
Distribution methods Compromised websites, rogue online pop-up ads, potentially unwanted applications.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft, possible malware infections.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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The internet is rife without deceptive and malicious material. Content relating to illegal activity and piracy often infects users' systems with malware. For example, malicious software can be disguised as account hacking tools/programs or packed into licensed product activation ("cracking") tools, and so on.

The web is also rife with online schemes. Popular scam models include warnings that the system is infected or at risk ("Your Computer Has Been Locked", "Windows Alert & Warning", etc.), alerts that an essential piece of software is outdated or missing ("Antivirus Update is prepared", "Adobe Flash Player Was Not Found", etc.), fake prize giveaways and raffles ("You've made the 9.68-billionth search", "International Official Lottery", etc.), and many others.

Regardless of what these 'urgent' warning sites display or the "amazing" things they offer, the scams have just one purpose: to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them. Therefore, you are strongly advised to exercise caution when browsing.

How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?

PUAs are distributed via the download/installation set-ups of other software. This deceptive marketing tactic of packing regular products with unwanted or malicious additions is called "bundling".

Rushing download/installation processes (e.g. ignoring terms, skipping steps and sections, using pre-set options, etc.) increases the risk of inadvertently allowing bundled content into the system. Intrusive advertisements proliferate these apps as well. Once clicked, the ads can execute scripts to download/install software without users' permission.

Some PUAs also have "official" promotional/sale web pages, from which they can be obtained. These sites are often endorsed by deceptive/scam sites.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications

You are advised to research all products to verify their legitimacy, prior to download/installation and/or purchase. Use only official and trustworthy download channels. Dubious sources such as unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, eMule, Gnutella, etc.) and other third party downloaders commonly offer deceptive and bundled content.

When downloading/installing, read the terms, explore all available options, use the "Custom" or "Advanced" settings and opt-out of additional apps, tools, features, and so on. Intrusive ads may seem normal and harmless, however, they can redirect to dubious sites (e.g. pornography, gambling, adult-dating and others).

If you encounter advertisements or redirects of this kind, inspect the system and remove all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately. If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them.

Screenshots of "Social network hacks" scam inserted into Google search results:

Social network hacks scam injected into Google search results (example 1) Social network hacks scam injected into Google search results (example 2)

Screenshot of "Social network hacks" scam promoted on the visualstudio.com website:

Social network hacks scam promoted in visualstudio.com-website

Screenshots of the "Social network hacks" scam promoted via PDFs on various hacked sites:

Social network hacks scam PDF example 1 Social network hacks scam PDF example 2 Social network hacks scam PDF example 3

Appearances of the deceptive websites promoted by "Social network hacks" scam (GIFs):

Social network hacks scam website (GIF) 1 Social network hacks scam website (GIF) 2 Social network hacks scam website (GIF) 3 Social network hacks scam website (GIF) 4 Social network hacks scam website (GIF) 5

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Quick menu:

Removal of potentially unwanted applications:

Windows 11 users:

Accessing Apps and Features in Windows 11

Right-click on the Start icon, select Apps and Features. In the opened window search for the application you want to uninstall, after locating it, click on the three vertical dots and select Uninstall.

Windows 10 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 8

Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen, in the Quick Access Menu select Control Panel. In the opened window choose Programs and Features.

Windows 7 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 7

Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.

macOS (OSX) users:

Uninstall app in OSX (Mac)

Click Finder, in the opened screen select Applications. Drag the app from the Applications folder to the Trash (located in your Dock), then right click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash.

PUAs uninstall via Control Panel

In the uninstall programs window, look for any suspicious/recently-installed applications, select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".

After uninstalling the potentially unwanted application, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components or possible malware infections. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.

Remove rogue extensions from Internet browsers:

Video showing how to remove potentially unwanted browser add-ons:

Internet Explorer logoRemove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:

Removing rogue extensions from Internet Explorer step 1

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". Look for any recently-installed suspicious browser extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".

Removing rogue extensions from Internet Explorer step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the social network hacks hoax, reset your Internet Explorer settings to default.

Windows XP users: Click Start, click Run, in the opened window type inetcpl.cpl In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows XP

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click the Windows logo, in the start search box type inetcpl.cpl and click enter. In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 7

Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.

Reseting Internet Explorer settings to default in Windows 8 - accessing

In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - Internet options advanced tab

Click the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - click the Reset button in the Internet options advanced tab

Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - confirm settings reset to default by clicking the reset button

Google Chrome logoRemove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:

Removing rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 1

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and remove them.

Removing rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the social network hacks hoax, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click the Advanced… link.

Google Chrome settings reset step 1

After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 2

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 3

Mozilla Firefox logoRemove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:

Removing rogue extensions from Mozilla Firefox step 1

Click the Firefox menu firefox menu icon (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click on "Extensions", in the opened window remove all recently-installed suspicious browser plug-ins.

Removing rogue extensions from Mozilla Firefox step 2

Optional method:

Computer users who have problems with social network hacks hoax removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.

Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, firefox menu icon in the opened menu, click Help.

Accessing settings (Reset Firefox to default settings step 1)

Select Troubleshooting Information.

Accessing Troubleshooting Information (Reset Firefox to default settings step 2)

In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.

Clicking on Refresh Firefox button (Reset Firefox to default settings step 3)

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.

Confirm your want to reset Firefox settings to default (Reset Firefox to default settings step 4)

safari browser logoRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

removing adware from safari step 1 - accessing preferences

Make sure your Safari browser is active, click Safari menu, and select Preferences....

removing adware from safari step 2 - removing extensions

In the opened window click Extensions, locate any recently installed suspicious extension, select it and click Uninstall.

Optional method:

Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...

resetting safari step 1

In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.

resetting safari step 2

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) logoRemove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 1

Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the upper-right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and click "Remove" below their names.

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the social network hacks hoax, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 1

In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 2

Select Restore settings to their default values. In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Microsoft Edge settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 3

  • If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.

Summary:

declining installation of adware while downloading free software sampleCommonly, adware or potentially unwanted applications infiltrate Internet browsers through free software downloads. Note that the safest source for downloading free software is via developers' websites only. To avoid installation of adware, be very attentive when downloading and installing free software. When installing previously-downloaded free programs, choose the custom or advanced installation options – this step will reveal any potentially unwanted applications listed for installation together with your chosen free program.

Removal assistance:
If you are experiencing problems while trying to remove social network hacks hoax from your computer, please ask for assistance in our malware support forum.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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