The Socialbot Network: When Bots Socialize for Fame and Money

Yazan Boshmaf ; Ildar Muslukhov ; Konstantin Beznosov ; Matei Ripeanu

27 February 2012

Abstract: Online Social Networks (OSNs) have attracted millions of active users and have become an integral part of today's Web ecosystem. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, OSNs can be used to harvest private user data, distribute malware, control botnets, perform surveillance, influence algorithmic trading, and spread misinformation. Usually, an adversary starts off by running an infiltration campaign using hijacked or adversary-owned OSN accounts, with an objective to connect to a large number of users in the targeted OSN. In this paper, we evaluate how vulnerable OSNs are to a large-scale infiltration by socialbots: bots that control OSN accounts and mimic actions of real users. We adopted a traditional web-based botnet design and built a prototype of a Socialbot Network (SbN): a group of coordinated programmable socialbots. We operated our prototype on Facebook for eight weeks, and collected data about users' behavior in response to a large-scale infiltration by our socialbots. Our results show that (1) OSNs, such as Facebook, can be infiltrated with a success rate of up to 80%, (2) depending on users' privacy settings, a successful infiltration can result in privacy breaches where even more users' data are exposed, and (3) in practice, OSN security defenses, such as the Facebook Immune System, are not effective enough in detecting or stopping a large-scale infiltration as it occurs.

Keyword(s): Online Social Networks ; Social Network Security ; Large-scale Infiltration ; Socialbots ; Botnets

Published in: Yazan Boshmaf, Ildar Muslukhov, Konstantin Beznosov, and Matei Ripeanu. The socialbot network: when bots socialize for fame and money. In Proceedings of the 27th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC'11), December 2011:

The record appears in these collections:
Technical Reports
Network Security

 Record created 2012-02-27, last modified 2013-05-22

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