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Your Facebook Friends May Be Evil Bots


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An 'evil bot.'

Groups of social bots could lead to disaster for large online destinations, or even threaten the fabric of the Internet, the economy, and society, researchers say.

Credit: Palto/iStockphoto

University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers have found that groups of social bots could lead to disaster for large online destinations, or even threaten the fabric of the Internet, having ramifications for the broader economy and society as a whole.

The UBC researchers created a "social botnet" and unleashed it on Facebook's more than 1 billion profiles. These social bots pose as online users, adding posts that seem like they came from real people. However, they secretly promote products or viewpoints, and could even siphon off private information. The bots can steal information on a massive scale when coordinated by a botmaster, and the UBC researchers developed a program that creates Facebook profiles and friends regular users.

"We saw that the success rate can be up to 80 percent," says UBC's Kosta Beznosov.

The bots follow a specific set of behavioral guidelines that place them in positions from which they can access and disseminate information. The bots explore the social network, progressively expanding through friends of friends.

The research is based on a principle called triadic closure, in which two parties connected by a mutual acquaintance will likely connect directly to each other. The complexity of social botnets makes it difficult to develop an effective security policy, the researchers note.

From InfoWorld
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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