Socialbot Network finds it easy to harvest data from Facebook users

Graham Cluley
@gcluley

Researchers have claimed that Facebook’s inbuilt security systems are “not effective enough” at stopping automated identity theft, after running a large-scale infiltration of the network using Socialbots.

In their paper, “The Socialbot Network: When Bots Socialise for Fame and Money”, researchers from the University of British Columbia describe how they managed to collect private data from thousands of complete strangers on Facebook, and infiltrate their friend networks, using “socialbots”.

The researchers – Yazan Boshmaf, Ildar Muslukhov, Konstantin, Beznosov and Matei Ripeanu – explain that a socialbot is automated software that can control a social networking account, and can perform basic functions such as posting messages and friend requests.

Importantly, socialbots attempt to pass themselves off as being a real, living human being rather than computer code.

Hot or Not, I Love QuotesAlthough Facebook puts steps in place to try to avoid the automated creation of accounts, the researchers relate how it would be possible to use online services to break CAPTCHAs, and populated their bogus accounts’ profile images with attractive photos from HotOrNot…

Read more in my article on the Naked Security website.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

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