Socialbot gang ‘steals’ personal data from 3,000+ Facebook users

facebook-privacy

A ‘socialbot’ may have stolen your personal Facebook data, reports The Register. But don’t worry, the digital hoard was unleashed in the name of science. 

A team of student researchers at the University of British Columbia Vancouver released 102 socialbots – software that mimics real users – into Facebook to test the social network’s ability to combat against such menace. 

The so-called “socialbot network,” or SbN, sent out a total of 8,570 connection requests, during a period of 8 weeks. The requests went to a total of about 5,000 randomly selected Facebook users, according to the group’s research paper (pdf), which will be presented at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference in Orlando, Florida, next month. 

The bots were able to automatically gather 250GB of personal user data from 3,055 Facebook members who mistakenly accepted friend requests from the fake user profiles. The fake profiles included a fake photograph, as well as status updates pulled directly from iheartquotes.com. Most of the data obtained by the SbN was intended to be seen only by users’ friends, and included 46,500 email addresses and more than 14,500 home addresses.

About 20 percent of the SbN socialbots were detected by the Facebook Immune System, which is designed to automatically detect fake profiles, though most of the detection was due to users reporting the fake accounts as spam, the report says. 

Facebook, of course, is not happy about the experiment, and says it is concerned about the methodology used by the researchers.

“We have numerous systems designed to detect fake accounts and prevent scraping of information. We are constantly updating these systems to improve their effectiveness and address new kinds of attacks,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to media outlets.

“We use credible research as part of that process. We have serious concerns about the methodology of the research by the University of British Colombia and we will be putting these concerns to them.

“In addition, as always, we encourage people to only connect with people they actually know and report any suspicious behavior they observe on the site.”

The research team addresses the ethical concerns of the experiment, but concluded that they were justified in their actions. 

“Online social network’s security defences, such as the Facebook Immune System, are not effective enough in detecting or stopping a large-scale infiltration as it occurs,” the team wrote in the report. 

“We believe that large-scale infiltration in online social networks is only one of many future cyber threats, and defending against such threats is the first step towards maintaining a safer social web for millions of active web users.”

Unlike traditional botnets, which are controlled by people who then steal data from users’ computers, the SbN was controlled automatically by a ‘botmaster’ program. A single socialbot can be purchased for about $29. 

Social Media

Facebook says it unintentionally uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million users

Facebook says that over the last two years it unintentionally uploaded the email contacts of 1.5 million users as they signed up to the social networking service. The process has ended and the email addresses are being deleted.
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Deals

Amazon and Best Buy halve the price of the Facebook Portal for Mother’s Day

Amazon and Best Buy both cut the price in half for the Facebook Portal smart display for Mother's Day. The Portal's smart camera will follow you as you move around the room during video calls. The Portal also has Amazon Alexa built in.
Social Media

Messenger and Facebook, together again? Facebook tests integrating chats

Longing for the old days where Facebook and Messenger were one app? Facebook is testing an integrated chat option. While Messenger remains more feature-rich, the test brings some chat functionality back into the Facebook app.
Social Media

Facebook’s tributes section serves as an online memorial for deceased users

Death doesn't stop Facebook users from sharing memories, and now those memorialized posts have a dedicated spot on the network. Facebook Tribute is a section on memorialized profiles for users to write posts and share memories.
Social Media

How to protect yourself from GoFundMe scams before donating

Can you spot a GoFundMe scam? While the fundraising platform says scams make up less than a tenth of one percent of campaigns, some do try to take advantages of others' charity -- like a case last year that made national news.
Social Media

Your Facebook newsfeed is getting a spring cleaning, and so is Messenger

Hows that newsfeed looking? Facebook has shared an update on efforts to clean up the newsfeed, as well as what tools are coming next. Facebook has new Trust Indicators, while Messenger gains badges for verified accounts.
Social Media

Looking to officially rid your inbox of Facebook messages? Here's how

Deleting messages from Facebook Messenger is almost as easy as scrolling through your News Feed. Here, we show you how to delete an entire conversation or a single message, both of which take seconds.
Social Media

LinkedIn: Now you can express love, curiosity, and more with new Reactions

LinkedIn is following in the footsteps of Facebook (three years later!) with the rollout of new reactions that give users more ways to express themselves when responding to posts in their feed.
Social Media

Twitter’s experimental Twttr app is even more popular than the real thing

Twttr, the new app that lets regular Twitter users test new features, is proving more popular than the main app, according to the company. The revelation suggests some of the innovations may land for all Twitter users soon.
Social Media

How to download Instagram Stories on iOS, Android, and desktop

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down worldwide for 2 hours this morning

Chaos erupted on the internet this morning, as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp all went down from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. Thousands of users were unable to access the sites or send or receive Whatsapp messages.
Mobile

Skype screen sharing for mobile will let you share your swipes on dating apps

Skype is prepping the launch of screen sharing for mobile so you can share your swipes on dating apps, shop with buddies, or, perhaps, show a PowerPoint presentation to coworkers. It's in beta just now, but anyone can try it.
Social Media

Facebook toys with mixing Stories and News Feed into one swipeable carousel

Facebook's News Feed could look a lot like Stories if a prototype the social media giant is working on rolls out to users. The design change mixes Stories and News Feed posts into a full-screen slideshow that users swipe left to navigate.