Duo Security, the leading provider of unified access security and multi-factor authentication, has published a report “Don’t @ Me: Hunting Twitter Bots at Scale,” in which it exposed an advanced botnet of fake cryptocurrency giveaways on Twitter.
According to the official press-release, the company has collected and analyzed 88 million public Twitter accounts comprising more than half-a-billion tweets from May to July 2018. This is the first time such a large amount of Twitter datasets has been analyzed.
By using machine learning algorithms, the researchers established that there are at least 15 000 crypto scam bots operating on this social media.
“The typical operation of the bots involved first creating a spoofed account for a legitimate cryptocurrency-affiliated account. This spoofed account would have (what appeared to be) a randomly-generated screen name, and would copy the name and pro le picture of the legitimate account,” the report says.
In other words, the scammers took accounts of famous people in the crypto world and beyond, including US President Donald Trump and Vitalik Buterin, and offered people big cryptocurrency awards in exchange for small payments.
“Users are likely to trust a tweet more or less depending on how many times it’s been retweeted or liked. Those behind this particular botnet know this and have designed it to exploit this very tendency,” Duo Security researchers noted. They also added that it is highly important to analyze an account holistically and that includes the metadata around the content, as bots usually behave in a very specific way. For example, a bot account usually tweets a lot. There’s little time left in-between the posts. Tweeter administration should take that into account.
Tweeter, in turn, claims that “spammy content is hidden on Twitter on the basis of automated detections.” The problem is, however, that even if Twitter hides the malicious content from search and conversations, it may still be available via Application programming interface.
A spokesperson for Twitter has commented on the matter. Particularly, it was noted that “Twitter is aware of this form of manipulation and is proactively implementing a number of detections to prevent these types of accounts from engaging with others in a deceptive manner.” He also added that the amount of Twitter accounts which are spam-related are less than 5%.
Twitter has been previously targetted by various scams. Thus, in July it automatically blocked accounts which used Elon Musk’s name in an endeavor to stop “Elon Musk giving away ETH.” This happened after An Open Letter from Crypto Community to Twitter: End the Hypocrisy had been signed by members of crypto community, including Binance and Icelandic Blockchain Foundation. They pointed out that cryptocurrency ads are banned but bots are not and it is “shameful that the company allows these spam bots and false accounts to exist and rampantly scam users.”