Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

4/27/2017
04:55 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
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In this case, spammers used the official HTC Sense app to trick users by leveraging an outdated version of the app and an earlier version of the Facebook API.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
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Manchester United Suffers Cyberattack
Dark Reading Staff 11/23/2020
As 'Anywhere Work' Evolves, Security Will Be Key Challenge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/23/2020
Cloud Security Startup Lightspin Emerges From Stealth
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  11/24/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20934
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-28
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel before 5.2.6. On NUMA systems, the Linux fair scheduler has a use-after-free in show_numa_stats() because NUMA fault statistics are inappropriately freed, aka CID-16d51a590a8c.
CVE-2020-29368
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-28
An issue was discovered in __split_huge_pmd in mm/huge_memory.c in the Linux kernel before 5.7.5. The copy-on-write implementation can grant unintended write access because of a race condition in a THP mapcount check, aka CID-c444eb564fb1.
CVE-2020-29369
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-28
An issue was discovered in mm/mmap.c in the Linux kernel before 5.7.11. There is a race condition between certain expand functions (expand_downwards and expand_upwards) and page-table free operations from an munmap call, aka CID-246c320a8cfe.
CVE-2020-29370
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-28
An issue was discovered in kmem_cache_alloc_bulk in mm/slub.c in the Linux kernel before 5.5.11. The slowpath lacks the required TID increment, aka CID-fd4d9c7d0c71.
CVE-2020-29371
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-28
An issue was discovered in romfs_dev_read in fs/romfs/storage.c in the Linux kernel before 5.8.4. Uninitialized memory leaks to userspace, aka CID-bcf85fcedfdd.