Risk
8/24/2010
01:53 PM
50%
50%

Facebook Spam Conversion Rate Hits 47%

Return rate far exceeds e-mail, but people are starting to develop a resistance to clicking on Facebook and Twitter virally spreading links, finds F-Secure.




Slideshow: Top 10 Tech Newsmakers Of 2010
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
The average conversion rate for a recent Facebook spam campaign was about 47%, meaning that nearly half of the people who saw the spam clicked on the link to read it. That finding comes from Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at antivirus firm F-Secure who's been researching social networking spam.

"With all the attention on 'virally spreading' links, we wondered, just how effective is it? What's the conversion rate? Links spread virally -- but so what? That's only one step in the process. How many people actually fill out the CPA surveys that make the money?" said Sullivan on the F-Secure blog. CPA -- cost per action -- networks pay affiliates for each survey they return which has been filled out, typically with a person's e-mail address or zip code.

Two recent spam campaigns, both purporting to involve a McDonald's "Happy Meal Horror," used shortened bit.ly links to spread. Happening on a statistics dashboard tied to the attack, Sullivan discovered the spam campaign had netted a combined 32,000 clicks, as well as about 15,000 total "likes" on Facebook. "Clicks to likes, what's the conversion rate? One link has around 40% and the other about 48%," he said.

In terms of spam, "40% is an excellent conversion rate, much better than e-mail spam," said Sullivan. "However, the 32,000 clicks is far less than similar spam from just two months ago when we saw several examples of viral links that yielded hundreds of thousands of clicks." Furthermore, few people actually filled out the survey.

The good news, then, is that while spam is still circulating via Facebook, people seem to be catching on. "Returns are diminishing as people are exposed, develop a resistance, and recognize Facebook spam for what it is," he said.

The bad news, however, is that with CPA surveys as well as the bogus SMS subscriptions touted by many surveys, at least outside of the United States, "social networking spammers don't need to dupe very many people in order to be rewarded for their efforts," said Sullivan.

Of course, Facebook isn't the only social network home to spam. Antivirus firm Sophos, for example, recently detailed a new diet scam that's circulating via Twitter spam, using roughly 114 accounts which appear to have been hacked by attackers guessing their passwords. The accounts are now extolling the virtue of eating Acai Berry pills.

In a blog post, Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos Canada, called on Twitter to tighten its security to prevent attackers from gaining control of accounts with poor passwords. "All of the attacks against Twitter that I have seen are using Twitter's API. This API is plain HTTP, no encryption, and seems to allow unlimited password guessing with no consequences."

To help put a dent in social networking spam, Wisniewski called on Twitter to stop using non-OAuth APIs.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-7896
Published: 2015-03-03
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in HP XP P9000 Command View Advanced Edition Software Online Help, as used in HP Device Manager 6.x through 8.x before 8.1.2-00, HP XP P9000 Tiered Storage Manager 6.x through 8.x before 8.1.2-00, HP XP P9000 Replication Manager 6.x and 7.x before ...

CVE-2014-9283
Published: 2015-03-03
The BestWebSoft Captcha plugin before 4.0.7 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass the CAPTCHA protection mechanism and obtain administrative access via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-9683
Published: 2015-03-03
Off-by-one error in the ecryptfs_decode_from_filename function in fs/ecryptfs/crypto.c in the eCryptfs subsystem in the Linux kernel before 3.18.2 allows local users to cause a denial of service (buffer overflow and system crash) or possibly gain privileges via a crafted filename.

CVE-2015-0890
Published: 2015-03-03
The BestWebSoft Google Captcha (aka reCAPTCHA) plugin before 1.13 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass the CAPTCHA protection mechanism and obtain administrative access via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-2168
Published: 2015-03-03
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue in customer-controlled software. Notes: none.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.