Bots

A social media bot is an autonomous piece of software that controls a social media account.

Social media bots execute often simple commands (comments, likes, shares, re-tweets) to influence conversations, gain followings, and spread fake news. The goal of these kinds of malicious bots is to appear human enough to convince users of social media sites that the source of information is credible and informed.

Social media bots were used in the 2016 U.S Presidential Election. It is strongly believed that bots were used to spread pro Trump propaganda and to discredit Hillary Clinton. The Guardian reported that Twitter admitted that more than 50,000 accounts linked to Russia used its service to post automated messages about the election.

Fake news

Fake news is the posting of non-factual information to fulfil the agenda of the malicious user. A story surfaced in early April 2019 of fake news circulating in India in the run-up to the General Election, which began on the 11th of April.

Reuters reported that a man, described as an avid Facebook user, posted a live video of himself with a recording of what appeared to be a leaked phone call concerning the Home Minister, president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and an unidentified woman.

The recording framed the President of the BJP as ‘’calling for war’’ in order to win political approval and nationalist favour. This came 2 weeks after suicide bombs in Kashmir killed 40 parliamentary policemen.

Within 24 hours a Facebook partner identified that the recording was fake and it was removed, although copies of the recording can still be found circulating the internet.

Phishing

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of inducing individuals into revealing personal information. Often the criminal will present themselves as a reputable source or a trusted person in order to gain the trust of the victim. Social media phishing is phishing that happens within social networking sites.

Links that lead to harmful websites can be found on news feeds, in direct messages, or via spoofed accounts (an account designed to look legitimate and trustworthy)

These links can redirect to harmful websites which can deposit malware onto the victim’s computer or request personal details such as login details or bank information.

Criminals have been known to pose as Highstreet Banks on social media sites with fake copies of banks customer-facing pages. The criminals then observe interactions on the genuine bank’s page and insert themselves into conversations where they can with a direct message.

Have you ever seen the following quizzes on your news feed?

‘Which movie star are you?’

‘What is your pornstar name?’

‘Which Starwars character are you?’

Some of these quizzes will request personal information such as mobile phone numbers, maiden names of parents, pets’ names, the place that you were born. These questions are common security questions for banks.

Information gathering

Information gathering defines the practices of collecting information from a person’s social media profile. How much information are you revealing publicly on your Facebook page? Obviously, privacy setting can be changed, but have you changed yours? Have you even looked through the privacy settings?

Your social media profiles can be a treasure trove of information. Profiles can list where you live, where you have lived, pictures of yourself, where you work, where you went to school, where you went to university, phone number, date of birth, religious views, political views, whether you’re in a relationship and with who, family members… The list goes on.

If a criminal manages to gain acceptance as a friend, they could have access to status updates, where your current location/where you’ve ‘checked in’, when you’re on holiday. They could know when your house is likely to be empty.

Makes you think twice about accepting a request from what appears to be a supermodel… cough cough.

It’s frightening when you think about it.

A report from 2012 details an incident where a 17-year-old girl was helping her Grandmother count savings. The girl snapped a picture of the cash and uploaded it to Facebook prompting an armed robbery at the Grandmothers house.