Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Prices for fake Twitter followers drop, fuelling spam surge: Barracuda study

AvantiKumar | Dec. 13, 2013
You can buy 1,000 fake Twitter followers for just US$11 on eBay, says Barracuda Networks’ Malaysia-based Regional Manager, Thiban Darmalingam.

Thiban Darmalingam, Regional Manager for Barracuda in Malaysia 

Photo - Thiban Darmalingam, Regional Manager for Barracuda in Malaysia.

 

According to research by cloud security and storage provider Barracuda Networks, there has been a recent surge of fake Twitter accounts with sellers dropping their prices on eBay.

Thiban Darmalingam, regional manager for Barracuda Networks in Malaysia, said, "The Barracuda research report highlighted three major trends:- 98 per cent of tweets from fake Twitter accounts were sent via Twitter.com, as compared to just 24 percent of real account users using Twitter.com who preferred using a third party or mobile application."

"A year ago, 1,000 fake followers could have set you back US$25 but now the average price is just US$11," said Darmalingam. "At an estimate, these dealers have several thousand buyers who spend an average of US$65."

He adds there are currently 52 sellers on eBay selling Twitter followers who are making fake Twitter accounts more affordable too. "In fact our researchers found one dealer who may have generated US$1.4 million just by selling fake Twitter followers."

"Every few months, our team of researchers at our Barracuda Labs, presents a summary of the latest findings that contribute to the spread of spam and malware and pose a threat to the average Internet user," he said.  "It is discovered that fake accounts are not only being used for malware distribution but they are also monetized by selling them as followers."

Darmalingam said 63 percent of fake accounts were created by duplicating the information of real users by appending their screen name with a few characters while still using the same profile photo, location and description.

 Spamming through Twitter lists

"Spamming using Twitter lists is another trend we have discovered," he said. "Twitter accounts barely a few hours old, can add more than 90,000 people to various lists. As of now there is no way to block such activities other than by manually blocking these suspicious users.  While this may work in the short term, it will be a tedious process for users that have been added to hundreds of lists."

"In summary, it seems people still have a large appetite for large number of fake followers to seem more popular," said Darmalingam. "Fraudsters are cashing in on this and are even lowering prices to compete with each other."

"Attackers are continuing to innovate the way they abuse popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to spam or earn money and these trends are spreading to newly emerging social networks such as Tinder and more," he said. "As more users increase in any ecosystem, along with it comes' the spammers and fraudsters."

Twitter now has more than 230 million active monthly users (both real and fake) sending more than 500 million tweets per day, Darmalingam said.

 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.