Bots, a string of algorithms, are behaving more and more like real users on social media. Bots retweet and message social media users with information ranging from book recommendations to other various business products to content that later becomes the “trending topics” of the day.
While a bot that informs users of an upcoming sale may be harmless—annoying at worst—some can inflict serious damage, especially given that they are behaving more and more like people.
With this in mind, it is important to be able to protect your social media accounts and sensitive information from the web robot. Read on to learn how to do that, plus find out other need-to-know information about bots in the social media sphere.
1. It Is Easy to Buy or Create Bots
It is relatively easy to acquire 1,000 fake friends for your Twitter account. All you need, according to a Forbes article, is an IFTT.com account, RSS feed, and approximately $10.
You can even bypass these “materials” and download a bot software application. There is now even a bot store where users and businesses can purchase their own customizable bots within a couple of seconds. It is safe to say, the world of bots and how you can employ them is expanding.
2. Bots Are Highly Deceptive
Supposedly, 30% of social media users fall for bots; in fact, 20% of users accept unknown friend requests, which end up being from bots. Given that Twitter only limits conversations to 140 characters, it is easy (and getting easier) for bots to imitate people, making them highly deceptive.
3. Twitter Deals with Bots More Than Any Other Social Media Platform
Twitter, more than other social platforms, deals with an overwhelming number of bots (although Facebook has its fair share). According to CNBC, a study indicates that as many as 48 million Twitter accounts are ran by bots.
From court battles to creating programs to spot bots, Twitter is constantly trying to identify and exterminate bots on its platform.
4. Why Bots Are Attractive
People and businesses do in fact purchase and/or download bots to retweet their posts, like content, and, yes, follow them. With social media (especially Twitter), influence is demonstrated by how many followers one has.
The more followers, the more legitimate your account (and business) is. It then comes as no surprise why individuals try to skirt around slowly building their human Twitter base and take the easy solution: buy bots.
5. Bots: The Unethical Side
Just because businesses and individuals have (and do) purchase bots to boost the number of followers so that others are encouraged to follow them does not mean it is a good business strategy to employ.
At the very least, it is a questionably unethical one, especially depending on the motive. Bots, making several retweets and messages per day, can influence public opinion, affecting trending topics and even Google results.
These messages verge and cross the line, being considered social media spam. Then there is the argument that bots water down the point of social media, which is for humans to connect in the first place.
6. Bots: The Dangerous Side
Hackers may only be able to single-handedly target only a number of social media users. Using bots though, they’re able to target thousands, if not millions. Given that bots are behaving more and more like humans, users can easily fall for social engineering ploys and give up sensitive information or click on a phishing link.
Also, since anyone can create a Twitter account, bots can impersonate others on social media, which could misrepresent the actual user, causing damage to his/her reputation.
7. Businesses Using Bots to Deal with Customer Complaints
Now, businesses are purchasing/downloading bots to deal with customer complaints over social media. According to a Business Insider article, gone are the days where businesses dealt with complaints publicly. Instead, they are remedying the situation over private message with the individual. To speed up and automate this process, some several thousand businesses are using bots.
While this frees up hands for other tasks, it seems ironic that an AI software program is responsible for delivering quality customer service.
How Users Can Spot Bots
Not matter what your opinions are about bots, like it or not, they are here to stay. Nonetheless, you can take proactive steps to reduce the chances of accidentally following or relaying sensitive information to a bot.
In fact, a study sheds light on steps you can follow. Six years ago, a research team from Texas A & M University came up with a trap to bait nonhuman Twitter users. The trap involved creating 60 honeypot accounts. These honeypot accounts displayed text that was so unhuman, only a nonhuman would actually follow the account. From these accounts, the team was able to gather 36,000 potential bot accounts.
Comparing the content these bots put out versus human content, the team found several key differences. Firstly, bots retweeted content far more than actual humans and tended to have longer usernames with sooner startup dates. Meanwhile, human accounts received more responses, whether in the form of replies, mentions, or retweets.
You can use these key differences to help you determine who is following your social media accounts and whether you should follow them. (Also be aware of language barriers (i.e. inability to be sarcastic, respond to human verbiage like "um.")
Although, know that the study used the 2011 pool of bots so know that bots nowadays will appear more human. That said, don’t click on links from followers who are urging you to and be wary of giving out personal information on social media.
CBI Can Help
CBI, for cyber security solutions, can help you bolster your cyber defenses. Contact CBI to learn how.