You probably know that not everything, or everyone, is as they appear online. Chances are you have already met a BOT — short for Internet Robot. BOTs perform human functions and many times the speed of a human. The largest use of bots is for web spidering, where an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. Sometime these BOTS take on pseudo-human form…
A Familiar Story
You get a friend request on Facebook from someone you don’t know. However, they already know a bunch of your friends. Since they are friends with your friends, you casually accept them as your friend as well.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, you may have just been infiltrated. So what’s the problem? BOTS immediately go to work sending friends requests to everyone in your contact list. Their prime directive is to infiltrate your social network.
BOTs usually have one or more of the following objectives:
- Email scraping: After you have accepted them as a friend they grab your email address and contact info to build databases of emails that they can sell to spammers.
- Data scraping: They accumulate and sell your personal data to any number of entities from rogue marketers to groups specializing in identity theft.
- Spam Ads: They wait until they have an enormous network with hundreds or thousands of friends and then spam advertisements through their feed.
- Hijacking: They dig for your personal data and try to hijack your account and use it to spam marketing ads and especially disturbing content through your feed.
- Research: Sometimes they are dishonest researchers trying to study social networks and networking habits for any number of reasons. No bona fide researcher would ever do this.
If you receive a friend request from someone you don’t know, check them out … ask some questions. Most BOTS won’t respond; it’s not worth their time. The ones that do respond should not be able to fool you about how they know you. If the response validates a true friend of a friend — add them to your network, if you wish.
You are the gatekeeper. Protect yourself and your network. Be a friend to your friends … but don’t be fooled by BOTS.
Post Written by George Konetes & Mark Dreistadt
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