Over the past days, a riddle called “the Great Giraffe Challenge” has been making the rounds on Facebook. Now, posts have started circulating, claiming that the riddle is actually a malicious virus launched by hackers who want to steal Facebook accounts.
The giraffe riddle reads something like this: “3:00am, the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors, it's your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?”
Those who can’t solve it are asked to change their profile pictures to an image of a giraffe and keep it that way for three days.
Since a lot of people have been searching for pictures of giraffes over the past days, pranksters have come up with a hoax which claims that the image files actually hide a dangerous virus.
The hoax message, spotted by Hoax Slayer, reads something like this:
“A virus that exploits the recently discovered JPEG vulnerability has been discovered spreading over google's giraffe pictures.
‘It's been done in the past, but with HTML code instead of the JPEG,’ said James Thompson, chief technical officer for SANS' Internet Storm Center, the organization's online-security research unit. ‘It is a virus, but it didn't spread very far. We've only had two reports of it.’
The Facebook message goes like this: ‘I just changed my profile picture to a giraffe, but my answer was wrong’ When you do it, Facebook automatically gives the hackers your user mail and password, malicious code embedded in the JPEG image gives the hackers everything they need, James said.”
The scam messages also quote “Fred Hypponen of F-Secure” and note that Google and Microsoft are working on addressing the issue.
In reality, the giraffe riddle doesn’t have anything to do with a virus or hackers trying to hijack your Facebook account. Also, there’s no Fred Hypponen working at F-Secure. The expert’s name is actually Mikko Hypponen and he hasn’t issued any “warnings” about this particular virus.
Furthermore, the name of the chief technology officer for SANS' Internet Storm Center is Johannes Ullrich, not James Thompson.
The quotes are actually taken from a 2004 article about an “image virus” that spreads via AOLs instant messaging application.
The bottom line is that the Great Giraffe Challenge is harmless. While it’s highly recommended that users refrain from clicking on suspicious links distributed on social media platforms, such hoaxes simply cause unnecessary panic.