A study by researchers at the University of B.C. found that Facebook’s security system failed to stop a large-scale infiltration in which computer-generated fake Facebook profiles collected personal information about thousands of Facebook users.
In a paper to be presented at next month’s Annual Computer Security Applications Conference in Orlando, Fla., the researchers said they collected 250 gigabytes of information from Facebook users by using socialbots – fake Facebook profiles created and controlled by computer code.
The fake Facebookers, who were set up with names, photos and computer-generated status updates, sent friend requests to about 5,000 random Facebook users. When people accepted those friend requests, the socialbots followed up by putting out friend requests to friends of the initial group.
As a result, it took only eight weeks for researchers to acquire 250 gigabytes of personal information from Facebook users.
“This data include email addresses, phone numbers, and other profile information, all of which have monetary value,” the researchers
– Yazan Boshmaf, Ildar Muslukhov, Konstantin Beznosov and Matei Ripeanu – wrote in their paper, The Socialbot Network: When Bots Socialize for Fame and Money.
The data breaches weren’t limited to the infiltrated accounts, but spread to other connected accounts.
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