Endpoint

4/27/2017
04:55 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Facebook Spam Botnet Promises 'Likes' for Access Tokens

Facebook users can fuel a social spam botnet by providing verified apps' access tokens in exchange for "likes" and comments.

Cyberattackers are using access tokens for legitimate Facebook apps as vehicles to spread spam on the apps' behalf. How do they do it? By tricking Facebook users into handing over their tokens in exchange for "likes," comments, friends, and followers.

Researchers at Proofpoint discovered an API access token for a verified Facebook app was being used to fuel comment spam on other Facebook pages. In this case, the victim page belonged to a major media outlet and Proofpoint customer.

Comment spam both interferes with social media interactions and exposes users to phishing and malware. A lot of comment spam found on social channels is generated by botnets, as was the case here.

In this case, spammers used the official HTC Sense app to trick users by leveraging an outdated version of the app and an earlier version of the Facebook API. How it worked:

Spam comments on the company's page referred to websites containing instructions for installing a particular version of the HTC Sense Facebook app. Users clicked the links and installed the app. They were shown how to get a developer-level API access token for the HTC Sense app.

From there, users were asked to copy the access token and paste it into a third-party website, run by bad actors, in exchange for likes, comments, etc. Once they passed along the token, the website was fully able to automate comments and other actions on behalf of the users.

[Check out the two-day Dark Reading Cybersecurity Crash Course at Interop ITX, May 15 & 16, where Dark Reading editors and some of the industry's top cybersecurity experts will share the latest data security trends and best practices.]

Ali Mesdaq, director of digital risk at Proofpoint, says this has been going on "at the very least for several months," though he cannot say with certainty when it started. Researchers came across the spam while working to protect a large news organization.

"When we dug deeper into why they had such a rise in spam comments in the last several months, we uncovered this campaign," he explains. "A number of the spam comments referenced how to install the app on individual Facebook accounts."

Since this issue was discovered, Facebook has made changes to prevent end-users from accessing developer-level API tokens, and provided best practices for building secure applications. HTC has removed the problematic versions of its HTC Sense app.

It's worth noting that several apps other than HTC Sense were targeted. This is one of many ways social media spam poses a risk to brands by interfering with user interaction and diluting corporate messaging on social channels.

"The implications are that we are starting to see mass broad sophisticated campaigns of spam on social media," Mesdaq explains. "Social media should be considered a hot target for attackers, and we expect the volume, diversity, and intensity of attacks to greatly increase."

The promise of more likes, comments, and friends may sound appealing, but this is a wake-up call to remind users that granting permissions to apps, and handing over access tokens, can lead to a spam overload, explains Proofpoint in a blog post. This can result in account suspension.

"Brands need robust, automated solutions for addressing spam, phishing, and malware distribution via their pages to protect customers and ensure appropriate interactions," says Mesdaq.

Related Content:

 

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Devastating Cyberattack on Email Provider Destroys 18 Years of Data
Jai Vijayan, Freelance writer,  2/12/2019
Up to 100,000 Reported Affected in Landmark White Data Breach
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/12/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-8360
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
Themerig Find a Place CMS Directory 1.5 has SQL Injection via the find/assets/external/data_2.php cate parameter.
CVE-2019-8361
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
PHP Scripts Mall Responsive Video News Script has XSS via the Search Bar. This might, for example, be leveraged for HTML injection or URL redirection.
CVE-2019-8362
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
DedeCMS through V5.7SP2 allows arbitrary file upload in dede/album_edit.php or dede/album_add.php, as demonstrated by a dede/album_edit.php?dopost=save&formzip=1 request with a ZIP archive that contains a file such as "1.jpg.php" (because input validation only checks that .jpg, .png, o...
CVE-2019-8363
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
Verydows 2.0 has XSS via the index.php?c=main a parameter, as demonstrated by an a=index[XSS] value.
CVE-2019-8358
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
In Hiawatha before 10.8.4, a remote attacker is able to do directory traversal if AllowDotFiles is enabled.