While that may make me sound old, in the “good old days” the worst you had to fear of from the shady side of the internet is getting your credit card number and information taken over. However, credit card fraud has lost it’s glamor over the last decade or so, and the hacking community turned elsewhere to make quick buck. Turns that the rise of Social Media as a very important factor has turned some of the hacker attention that wa, and the virus game is on.
Social networks such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and, most importantly, Facebook, attract a huge number of people. In Facebook’s example, that’s, very literally, billion – there’s over 1.2 billion users on Facebook. Social media presence is a very important factor for many companies around the world, as activity, liking and sharing is analyzed to project the company’s presence and to further project the sales numbers. Very large companies even use their Facebook results in determining the price of stocks.
Wherever there’s money to be made in the cyber world, there are black hats willing to look for a convenient loophole to exploit, and Zeus is one of the very popular trojans which has been around for over five years now, but it’s been adapted and put to mass use recently by hackers who discovered they can take plenty of money for the fake followers and shares. According to RSA, black hats offer the services of Zeus on Instagram at the price of 15$ for 1000 followers and 30$ for 1000 Instagram likes. On the other hand, 1000 of credit card numbers can be bought for as little as $6. It’s not hard to imagine that the same price tag, if not slightly higher, goes for Facebook likes and shares, and companies have been counting on that to snowball the support for their products and campaigns massively.
It’s a worrying trend, but it can get a lot worse. A Facebook user powered Trojan virus can do a lot more damage if it’s adapted slightly, and it’s purpose can be changed from just handing out unwarranted likes and shares to clicking the actual adds – think of all of the marketing analysis tools that would go crazy if some company suddenly started getting massive Facebook support. It’s estimated that several hundred thousand of PC’s around the world are Zeus infected, which would be more than enough to do some serious damage, like raising the stock price of a company. Pump and dump scams look very likely in this scenario, and they can do a lot of damage, not just on the stock market, but to the companies involved as well, when the truth gets uncovered and they get to suffer a severe customer backlash while the virus operators walk away with their gains.
All in all, it’s best to keep your security software up to date and buy the latest Anti Virus applications to keep yourself out of the legal mess that a hacker attack like this will undoubtedly cause, as internet crime laws around the world are pretty wonky and you can end up being liable for any suspicious activity of your computer, even if it was infected by malicious software.