- A 2016 study by Incapsula revealed that 51.8% of all internet users were actual robots!
- Bots can typically be separated into two categories – good bots, such as the ones that assist a user with troubleshooting issues, and malicious bots, which engage in activities, such as: posting spam comments, or spreading misinformation.
- Since May 2018, Twitter has removed approximately 70 million fake accounts!
Bots are an integral part of the internet. When appropriately used, they complete critical tasks, such as, indexing websites so that they appear in search engines, protecting websites from malicious cyber entities (the bad guys), and providing users with personalized contents! However, these bots can also be used for malicious activities, such as spreading misleading information, launching cyber attacks, and impersonating individuals. Social Media platforms, such as, Facebook and Twitter are full of bots. In this post, we will examine 3 ways to spot a bot so that a user can avoid falling for their tricks: Post Amplification, The Follower to Engagement Ratio, and Followers Average Account Age.
As stated earlier, bots can be used for a plethora of activities. One of their main roles in fraudulent campaigns, however, is to boost a specific message. This allows the owner of the bot (or a network of bots) to spread their message to the masses. Habitually, this is how “fake news” and hoaxes are predominantly spread throughout the internet. Chances are, you, the reader, have seen an account on twitter that constantly retweets messages, but never post original content or engages with their followers. This is indicative that the account is categorically a bot used to amplify a deceptive message.
The Follower to Engagement Ratio
The utmost influencer/celebrity accounts, whether genuine or fraudulent, have a significant follower to following ratio. The fundamental difference between a genuine account, and a fraudulent account, however, is that a genuine, high profile, account will post original content, and even interact with users in their close circle. In certain instances, a high profile account owner will engage with their fan base. With bot accounts, you will typically see an account with a large following, but there is minimal engagement. This alarming increase in followers will tend to occur overnight, suggesting that the owner of the account either paid for followers, or is a part of a larger bot network.
Followers Average Account Age
Recently, social media platforms have taken an aggressive stance against bots and other malicious accounts as of late. Millions of accounts have been purged over the years to disrupt bot networks. Consequently, bot owners have had to create new accounts in order to replace their older accounts that have been removed from a particular platform. A huge red flag that almost always screams “hey this account is a bot!”, is if an account is primarily followed by a substantial number of newly created accounts.
Bots are equally a gift and a curse. On one side of the spectrum, bots can make our lives easier by providing utility to us, such as, eliminating the need to call a customer service agent to resolve an issue. On the other end of the spectrum, bots can be used to spread false information, which can even play a factor into the outcome of a national election. When traversing through the internet, it is important that users know the tactics used by bots so that they can avoid falling for them. Bots can often be identified by the reality that they amplify posts, fail to engage with their followers, and are followed by accounts that magically appeared overnight.
With the U.S Presidential election rapidly approaching in November, the quest for a coronavirus vaccine underway, and internet usage skyrocketing because of a global pandemic, it is important that Americans avoid falling for fake news and spreading/retweeting misinformation!
Have any questions about other techniques you can use to identify bots? Contact us and we will be glad to answer your questions! Don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list to stay up-to-date with our latest security tips and tricks.