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Detecting fake and malicious Twitter accounts

Detecting fake and malicious Twitter accounts

Sandhya Krishnan, 12:12pm 25 April 2013

There has recently been a spike in the number of compromised Twitter accounts, which has increased concerns about the trustworthiness of information broadcast on Twitter and other social networks.  Just yesterday, the Associated Press Twitter account (@AP) was hacked and used to send out a false Twitter post about explosions at the White House. Last weekend saw Twitter accounts of CBS News (@60minutes@48hours) compromised. Corporate accounts belonging to Burger King and Jeep were also hacked in February this year.

We are working on techniques to predict that a given account is “fake” (falsely appears to represent a person or organization) or has been compromised and is being used to spreading malicious content.  Our approach analyses the account’s metadata, properties, network structure and the content in its posts. We also use both content and network analysis to identify the “real” account handle when multiple accounts appear or claim to represent the same person or organization on Twitter.

We recently analyzed a case where both @DeltaAssist and @flydeltassist appeared to represent Delta Airlines.  In February 2013, @flydeltaAssist, which turned out not to be associated with Delta, began tweeting an offer of free tickets if users “followed” them.  Eventually, the account was banned as a fake handle by Twitter. Our approach was able to answer the question “Which one of them belongs to the real Delta Airlines?” by analyzing the tweets and social network of these handles.

We are still in the process of writing up our research and evaluation results and hope to be able to post more about it soon.


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