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Twitter Eyes Signatures To Kill Fake Followers

timothy posted 1 year,17 days | from the if-that-is-your-real-name dept.

Social Networks 52

mask.of.sanity writes "Researchers have developed a signature system being examined by Twitter that hold promise to cut down on the amount of fake accounts used to deliver spam and malware. The signatures were developed during a study into the semi-underground market of fake accounts and was subsequently used by Twitter to eliminate an impressive 95 percent of several million accounts identified in the research. It applied elements like account names, the timing of the account creation, and browser identifiers to identify fake accounts. The 10-month study found that the creation of fake accounts at its peak represented 60 percent of all new accounts. (Paper here.)"

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Lots of this research going on... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572959)

Considering an incredibly similar article is listed like 5 articles down.

fukcing doop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572987)

Also the Slashdot mobile page is awful

Re:Lots of this research going on... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573005)

For those who don't want to search, here's a link [slashdot.org]

Re:Lots of this research going on... (0)

Mushdot (943219) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573069)

#grammarfailinsummary, #ffs

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | 1 year,17 days | (#44575099)

I always find it harder to focus on the content if the grammar gets so bad... The compiler stops at type checking.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573241)

I've not done twitter before...., so, can someone tell me why exactly people would create "fake" accounts for following themselves?

Is there some kind of status about having followers, that is so good, that you'd create parrot accounts to follow yourself?

What exactly does that gain you? Sounds kinda sad to me...

Re:Lots of this research going on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573365)

It's to lure in people to click on scam pages so the scammers can get money.

Average more important than peak (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573475)

The summary is a little misleading, it quotes a "peak" of fake accounts being "60 percent of the total new Twitter accounts," but leaves out the part of the article saying that over the 10-month study, the average was fake accounts were only "about 20 percent of new Twitter account created."

TFA also stated:

The scammers had a "thorough" understanding of Twitter’s anti-scam account protections, the researchers said, allowing them to create a well-oiled and stable underground market. "Our findings show that merchants thoroughly understand Twitter’s existing defenses against automated registration, and as a result can generate thousands of accounts with little disruption in availability or instability in pricing."

So I see no reason to think that, once a new "signature system" is put in place to cut down scam accounts, the scammers won't understand that and develop work-arounds as well.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573435)

I've not done twitter before...., so, can someone tell me why exactly people would create "fake" accounts for following themselves?

They don't create them on their own.

People like to point to # of Twitter followers as some measure of popularity.

So politicians, bloggers, and companies who want to look like more people are following them on Twitter pay a service which does this. Most of them are fake accounts which exist only to follow people and pad out their numbers.

This is about perception and marketing, and someone willing to pay to make it look like lots more people follow you. Which, apparently can have the run-on effect of making real followers wonder what you're all about.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (2, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573473)

So, fake people want fake people to impress fake people. .... Why I don't "tweet"

Re:Lots of this research going on... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573585)

So, fake people want fake people to impress fake people. .... Why I don't "tweet"

Ah, but once the fake people impress the fake people, then real people see you as someone with all of those fake followers and begin to follow you for real. It's sheep herding.

And then the real fun begins, because you're now a credible entity. It's perfect for self promotion and astroturfing.

That people do this has been well covered in the news for the last few years.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573677)

Sheep are not people.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573773)

Sheep are not people.

No, but twitter followers are like sheep.

I cite your own signature:

Agent K: A *person* is smart. People are dumb, stupid, panicky animals, and you know it.

If you can get some of the herd moving in your direction, you might get more to follow. Which is why people pay for fake Twitter followers.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

thunderclap (972782) | 1 year,17 days | (#44575793)

So, fake people want fake people to impress fake people. .... Why I don't "tweet"

Ah, but once the fake people impress the fake people, then real people see you as someone with all of those fake followers and begin to follow you for real. It's sheep herding.

And then the real fun begins, because you're now a credible entity. It's perfect for self promotion and astroturfing.

That people do this has been well covered in the news for the last few years.

Its been so popular that a show was even created about it: Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | 1 year,17 days | (#44576385)

Its been so popular that a show was even created about it: Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Ugh...

Is that still on? Hasn't their 15 minutes of fame expired yet?

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | 1 year,17 days | (#44575029)

Dupes are part of /. tradition. Without dupes, what is /.?

Re:Lots of this research going on... (1)

thunderclap (972782) | 1 year,17 days | (#44575803)

a legitimate news service?

Re:Lots of this research going on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44575851)

"Dupes are part of /. tradition. Without dupes, what is /.?"

A bunch of singles in basements?

Re:Lots of this research going on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44595727)

My room is actually at the second floor.

When bots are banned, they'll use wetware (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573035)

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/13/covert_twitter_ops_Israel_s_latest_misadventure_in_digital_diplomacy

There are ways of "inventing legitimate opinions" on the internet, living, breathing mechanical turks always pass the Turing test...

People are scum (1)

erroneus (253617) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573071)

I think it's pretty important to recognize that people are scum often enough that you can predict when a popular service is out there, someone will attempt to game it in some way to defraud or otherwise deceive others for personal gain.

Sadly, some people call this "doing business." I simply can't agree with the morality, but I can't reject the reality of the situation.

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573119)

"someone will attempt to game it in some way to defraud or otherwise deceive others for personal gain."

You understand libertarian capitalism perfectly.

Re:People are scum (1)

happy_place (632005) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573157)

There's nothing wrong with doing business. Scamming occurs when one party in the negotiation (could be solicitor in some cases, but more often is the customer) leaves the exchange feeling jilted, decieved so as to give one party unfair advantage, or outright robbed.

Any business exchange where one party is not completely honest is suspect. Twitter is perfect for dishonesty because it's just a name on a screen that can be spoofed, hijacked, and misrepresented.

I personally have a hard time seeing anything on Twitter as serious news, business, social or otherwise, and with it being a vehicle for phishing and malware, it's a tool I just don't use. When I weigh the downside, I just don't see it as all that beneficial. If you use it, it's probably a good idea to verify every communication that may impact you through some other means.

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573201)

"leaves the exchange feeling jilted, decieved so as to give one party unfair advantage, or outright robbed."

So as long as you aren't aware you're being swindled by externalized costs, it's just fine. Yes.

Free markets and capitalism [Re:People are scum] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573575)

someone will attempt to game it in some way to defraud or otherwise deceive others for personal gain.

You understand libertarian capitalism perfectly.

There's nothing wrong with doing business. Scamming occurs when one party in the negotiation (could be solicitor in some cases, but more often is the customer) leaves the exchange feeling jilted, decieved so as to give one party unfair advantage, or outright robbed. Any business exchange where one party is not completely honest is suspect.

Exactly. Free markets work well under the right conditions, but one of the things needed for free markets to be effective is an absence of widespread deceit.

So as long as you aren't aware you're being swindled by externalized costs, it's just fine. Yes.

Externalized costs are another way in which free markets fail to work well. Basically, if somebody can offload their cost, so that they get the benefits and somebody else pays the cost, the market is no longer efficient.

Re:People are scum (1)

happy_place (632005) | 1 year,17 days | (#44574649)

Actually, Perception is a large part of the equation...if I'm healed by the power of placebo-positive thinking, I'm still healed... I got what I sought in the transaction.

Most products sold are based on this idea, and many have ethical tradeoffs... and they're perfectly legal and as long as you're happy with it as a customer, then you got your value out of it... Heck, we've sold all sorts of things to one another that are openly harmful, including fast food, daily caffeine dosages, cigarettes, gasoline for your car, plastic containers that don't biodegrade, etc. At a certain point, I believe tabacco sellers knew their products were killing people, and imo, when they attempted to suppress scientific evidence to prevent the loss of profits--at that point--they became scammers.

In most cases we don't even know we're doing potential harm one to another. Heck, next week you'll probably discover that Greek Yogurt is the bane of good health and that twinkies is a miracle cure for baldness...And as long as you believe it, then it's probably just "business" as usual, because at the time of the transaction everyone was being open, honest and thought they were performing a mutually beneficial service.

Scammers that openly deceive, and Twitter is rife with it (60% of all accounts created is a HUGE number of scammers!) do so with expressly criminal intent. The distinction between them entrepreneurs may be small. IMO when the intent is personal profit above the humanity of your neighbor/business partner, etc, you need to go to jail or be banned or need to go to your room for a timeout...

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44575763)

"Scammers that openly deceive, and Twitter is rife with it (60% of all accounts created is a HUGE number of scammers!) do so with expressly criminal intent."

And yet, tobacco industry still exists, oil industry still exists, marijuana is still schedule 1 and Saddam didn't have the WMD's.

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44579661)

60% of all accounts created is a HUGE misreading of the TFS, let alone TFA

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573195)

A generation of MBAs have been taught that name recognition is all that matters, and a glut of marketing grads were taught the same thing. No one has bothered to notice that the current model of constant advertisements is having the opposite effect. Instead of people thinking "I need new shoes, oh yeah, I saw a commercial about House of Shoes, I'll try that" we have gotten to the point where a significant and growing portion of the populace thinks "I don't need new shoes, I've seen this stupid shoe commercial 4 times already during just this one show, I would rather shop anywhere but House of Shoes when I finally do need shoes."

I oppose the habit of making LOUDER COMMERCIALS, and having the SAME LOUD COMMERCIAL run every 6 minutes and the next 6 minutes and then twice in the next commercial break, then back to the every 6 minutes standard interrupted by a rare ad break that doesn't have the commercial only to follow it with an ad break that is nothing but that SAME LOUD COMMERCIAL and repeat forever.
If you want name recognition not linked to a strong sense of murderous rage, make a variety of commercials, and make them good. While I can't stand the swill, US beer companies have a long tradition of quality ads, and tend to prepare a variety batch for each new meme they design.

Related rant, I would like to see a correlation chart of advertisement time/space purchased and public opinion of large corporations over time. I suspect that there would be enough evidence to argue that much of the modern industry-hate is fuelled by excessive, relentless, infuriating advertisements.

Re:People are scum (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573229)

Well, what business are we talking about, here? Buying followers to fake the popularity of your page and discovering that those "followers" are fake? Or buying mailing lists stolen by blackhats or piled by crawlers?
Both cases look rather shady to me, and if someone get ripped buying drugs, he could do us all a favor and file a complaint and the closest police station...

Re:People are scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573897)

It's not business at all, Twitter is some kind of joke entertainment micro-cock-flashing site or something anyway. If you take anything on Twitter that seriously, then you probably believe the stories in the Onion, too.

use it or lose it? (1)

Aaron H (2820425) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573115)

It would be nice if online accounts like this had some sort of "longevity health" that was a function of how often they were updated (and when they were last updated). Every tweet, for example, would add some length of time onto the lifespan of an account, based on some kind of metric on how often people should be interacting with their stream (ie. 1/day or something like that).

When a user does not log into their account, a clock ticks down and when it hits zero, the account is archived and deactivated. The user can "reset" the countdown by logging into their account. And the more interacting they do while logged in the longer the countdown lasts while they are logged out.

May not be the best implementation, but it would just be nice to see some kind of auto-culling behavior on networks like these. Not just for spammers but for people who create an account, send three tweets about "what do I do on here?" and then never log in again. #namespacewaste

Re:use it or lose it? (1)

stewsters (1406737) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573221)

People would just write scripts to automatically register any account that expires, and name-squat on them. If you know how much time it takes to disable, and you can see all their posts, you can easily write a script to do this. Someone who could do that could write a keep alive posting script. This would either be abused for impersonation of people (imagine if the email you use for your bank expires, it wouldn't be good.) or held for ransom, which are both far worse than namespacewaste.

Re:use it or lose it? (2)

Notabadguy (961343) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573233)

It would be nice if online accounts like this had some sort of "longevity health" that was a function of how often they were updated (and when they were last updated). Every tweet, for example, would add some length of time onto the lifespan of an account, based on some kind of metric on how often people should be interacting with their stream (ie. 1/day or something like that).

When a user does not log into their account, a clock ticks down and when it hits zero, the account is archived and deactivated. The user can "reset" the countdown by logging into their account. And the more interacting they do while logged in the longer the countdown lasts while they are logged out.

May not be the best implementation, but it would just be nice to see some kind of auto-culling behavior on networks like these. Not just for spammers but for people who create an account, send three tweets about "what do I do on here?" and then never log in again. #namespacewaste

Various MMOs have tried this; logging, captchas, interactive buttons to push on the screen to ensure you're online and not a bot....

All that really happens is that a few lines get rewritten in a bot to make it click the right place on the screen, or log-in every 24 hours, etc.

Re:use it or lose it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,15 days | (#44595809)

And now they are going to fake some activity.. and no, a CAPTCHA will not solve this, because they are going to use CAPTCHA farms..

Ban those fake accounts! (2, Funny)

Notabadguy (961343) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573197)

When the dust settles, the 50 people using twitter will be grateful that the bots have been kicked off their lawn.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573513)

Wish I had mod points.

I just don't see the appeal of twitter. It rarely serves any useful purpose or even seems interesting. Only times I've seen otherwise are when it serves as a kind of bulletin board during disasters or unrest.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573627)

Whoa, I will totally stop using twitter, now that you don't see it's appeal.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44575883)

"I just don't see the appeal of twitter. It rarely serves any useful purpose or even seems interesting. Only times I've seen otherwise are when it serves as a kind of bulletin board during disasters or unrest."

We've had newsletters for decades for that, even without text limits and with attachments.
You could 'follow' or 'unfollow' these even in the seventies of last century.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (1)

thunderclap (972782) | 1 year,17 days | (#44576029)

I don't the appeal of your posts. They rarely serves any useful purpose or even seems interesting. Only times I've seen otherwise are when it serves as a kind of amusement for people too scare to actually reveal who they are.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (1)

thunderclap (972782) | 1 year,17 days | (#44576007)

I have 680 so its more like the 5000 of us.

Re:Ban those fake accounts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44576699)

Posting as AC, since already modded this thread.

I was at my local Kinko's (or fedex office, or whatever they call it these days) a couple of weeks ago to scan some papers.  While waiting for a workstation to free up, I couldn't help but notice a 20-something girl opening Gmail accounts, one after another and (presumably) using them to post Youtube comments on the same page and some twitter activity.  I do not know what she was posting, but she was definitely "spamming".  The workflow was repetitive and she looked pretty experienced with what she was doing.  I suppose this could be part of the 'my sister is making $x per day working part-time, from home, on her computer' scheme.  Made me wonder how real are the publicly reported twitter/facebook user numbers.

Cat and Mouse game (3, Insightful)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573225)

FTFA:signatures built on elements like account names, the timing of the account creation and browser identifiers to identify fake accounts.

It would be wise for them to beta this tech first before actually implementing it full scale. For a $360M a year practice [cir.ca] , there will be people who will find a way around it. Everyone thought Captcha was hackproof when it first came out and that has basically mutated into a system which can be used by neither human or machine.

False Positives? (4, Interesting)

zildgulf (1116981) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573309)

I wonder what the false positive rate is for the signature system? The false negative rate is 5%. I would need to know more information before I could figure out the false positive rate and how many legitimate accounts are flagged by this system,.

Re:False Positives? (1)

iroll (717924) | 1 year,17 days | (#44575251)

I think we can safely say that whatever the false positive rate is, nothing of value will be lost.

Yahoo Messenger (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573341)

Anyone remember Yahoo messenger?

Back in the day I found that they had a pretty nice search system. You could search by name, area, username, a bunch of stuff. The results, if clicked on, would lead to their profiles. I remember one day I searched for someone just out of curiosity to see if they were there. They lived in a small town of maybe 100 people. There were something like 10,000 users from that small town, all of them with long numbers in front of their name. Like 0000000amandaxxxfree and shit like that. Around that time, the Yahoo messenger spambots started. Every city I looked at had the absolute maximum number of users, and the first 90% of them were these names.

Yahoo never fixed it. Spam bots took over. At the peak of Yahoo spambots, I'd get 50 or 60 messages a day from different bots. The messages would be the same or at least very similar. They just didn't have the people or software to deal with it. Maybe Twitter learned.

Spoofed IP, spoofed browser details, what stops it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573343)

If it's as lucrative as it seems to be to astroturf with spambots it seems inevitable that someone will find a way to do that.

Don't be evil or Don't see evil? (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573827)

The researchers obtained permission from Twitter to conduct the research but were denied by Google, Yahoo and Facebook to conduct an investigation into scam accounts over their respective networks.

So only Twitter cooperated with an independent researcher trying to identify fake accounts. There is conflict of interest here, big companies have no real incentive to crack down on fake accounts. We should really commend Twitter for being open.

i'm missing something (2)

MooseTick (895855) | 1 year,17 days | (#44574553)

If you can get 10000 followers for a few bucks, why doesn't twitter set up fake accounts, pay the people to follow that account, then assume all followers are fake and delete those accounts. They could also determine the IPs and other identifiers around those accounts and block them in the future. If they have sweat shop people doing this, then the cost of creating accounts would be higher and likely not profitable.

Re:i'm missing something (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44576557)

They're not buying followers, they're buying the actual account that they then use to spam or whatever.

IP blocking doesn't work as they're using botnets to create the accounts.

Buying followers is fairly harmless, in that case the seller keeps the account. If I buy 1,000 followers and you do as well, the same 1,000 fake accounts are used to follow our feeds.

Fake Sigs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44574735)

Won't this just result in bots that make signatures as well as posting/following?

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