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Beware of Socialbots

You know when you're clicking around Facebook and pictures pop up of possible friends? People you might know? It's a useful feature, especially when you just join the social network, but after a while the list becomes less helpful, suggesting friends of people you don't know based on one tangential relationship. Now, those relationships could be used as a potential back door for scammers into your account, or so goes the thinking of researchers at the University of British Columbia. The group released 102 Socialbots, fake Facebook profiles, and sent out friend requests. The Socialbots were designed to entice with attractive, yet unassuming pictures and generic invitation messages. And guess what? Out of 5,053 requests sent out, 976 people accepted. That's a 19.3% acceptance rate. Next the Socialbots sent requests to the 976 people's friends, and this time, an astounding 59.1% of people accepted. The Socialbots kept going on their friending campaign and showed that 80% of people would accept a request if it came in with more than 10 mutual friends.

All Things D reports the findings:

"Over eight weeks, the UBC researchers made 3,055 Facebook friends, collecting more than half a million birthdays, nearly 50,000 email addresses, and nearly 15,000 home addresses. Based on those few thousand people that fell for the bots, more than one million Facebook accounts became open to the researchers' scans."

Of course the researchers didn't do anything with the information, but with a little number crunching and a nefarious mind, you can imagine the downward spiral that might occur.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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