For the last several years, we’ve monitored security threats and trends on social networks like Facebook and Twitter and published reports. Every few months we present a summary of our latest findings. One of our efforts has been around understanding the presence of fake user accounts on social networks that are often used to spread spam and malware. Lately, fake accounts are not only used for malware distribution but they are also monetized by selling them as followers. Here is our latest infographic that highlights key stats about the state of fake accounts on Twitter and other attacker trends.
The first stat is a measure of the size of the market for fake followers. We measure this as the number of eBay sellers offering Twitter followers for sale. There are currently 52 sellers on eBay selling Twitter followers. This is up from 20 in June 2013.
The second stat is the average price per thousand followers. The current price is $11 per thousand followers down from $18 per thousand in June.
The third stat that we show here is a measure of how many followers people are buying. The average that we measured in June was 52,432 followers per person that purchased fake followers. Now the average is 48,885.
Latest Attacker Tools and Trends
We also look at the recent habits of Twitter abusers.
Trend #1: AUTOMATED TWEETS
Most fake accounts automatically tweet through Twitter.com instead of using a third party or mobile app. 98% of tweets from fake accounts are sent via twitter.com vs 24% of tweets from real accounts.
Trend #2: DUPLICATED PROFILES
63% of Fake Accounts are created by duplicating profiles from real users. We cover this in more detail in this blog post from July.
Trend #3: SPAMMING USING TWITTER LISTS
Attackers add victims to a Twitter List to get their attention and then the list description advertises a spam URL. We have seen new spam accounts add over 90,000 people to a list within the first few hours of existing. We cover this in more detail in this blog post from September.
In summary, people still have a large appetite for having a large number of fake followers in order to seem more popular. Fraudsters are cashing in on this in a big way and even lowering prices to compete against each other. Lastly, we see the attackers continuing to innovate to find ways to monetize the increasingly popular platform of Twitter. This is the situation that we are seeing with most social networks and new applications. Not only is this abuse continuing on Facebook and Twitter but we also see it on emerging social networks like Tinder and others. As more users are present in any ecosystem, the attackers focus their efforts there.
Christine Barry is Senior Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager at Barracuda. In this role, she helps bring Barracuda stories to life and facilitate communication between the public and Barracuda internal teams. Prior to joining Barracuda, Christine was a field engineer and project manager for K12 and SMB clients for over 15 years. She holds several technology credentials, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Business Administration. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.