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Zeus rules over fake social media

Hackers have turned their attentions to creating false social media ‘likes’ as they follow the money. By revamping an existing virus called Zeus and secretly planting it in thousands of computers there’s a real threat that in time it could also be used to carry out far more damaging actions.
Zeus rules over fake social media The popularity of social media sites is attracting hackers like bees to a honey pot. Recently, the well-known Zeus virus was adapted to create fake ‘likes’ for Instagram. These likes, and also false followers, are then sold on hacker forums. The buyers are usually individuals and online start up companies who want to generate a following to create a sense of vibrancy and buzz around their products or services.

What’s the gain in generating fake “likes” you may ask?

At one level this sort of activity shows just how important social media is today for marketing purposes.  It’s also nothing new.  There are plenty of operations, often based in Asia, who will create false Facebook and Twitter accounts for a client and then use these accounts on behalf of the client to generate a following. This has been happening for quite some time and I’ve seen a number of people use the service to give their online start up business a bit of a nudge. It may be unethical but it happens. The rationale is simple; the more social media followers you have, the more popular you are, therefore there must be something in what you’re offering. And if you’re popular you’re worth checking out.

Zeus is more than just a bug that posts “likes” on Facebook

But the adaption of Zeus signals a new trend that could be potentially harmful for ordinary social media users. To start with, the modified version of Zeus infects computers via social media accounts. It then controls the infected computers from a central and ‘commands’ the accounts to post ‘likes’ for users who have paid for the service. No doubt, the modified Zeus Virus also has the potential to order computers to carry out other activities or download personal information, though there is little evidence of this at the moment. But keep in mind Zeus was originally created to steal credit card information, so this is not a benign bug. Its current use as a creator of false social media profiles is simply hackers following the money. But for how long?  It’s not unreasonable to imagine a situation where the revamped Zeus is instructed to start downloading personal financial details to carry out identity theft.  It’s difficult to estimate how widespread the current infections are but given that the false ‘likes’ for Instagram are being sold in batches of one thousand, it must be significant.

How to keep the Zeus Virus away from your computer

Given that identity theft can be incredibly ruinous it makes sense to adopt simple security measures such as an antivirus programme which would pick up Zeus and ensure that it’s cleaned from a computer. This may be an obvious step to protection but the number of people who don’t have this basic safeguard is surprisingly high, one in four according to some estimates. BullGuard Antivirus is probably one of the best there is, it has the highest virus catch rates in the industry and provides innovative multiple defence layers to keep the nasties out. In a world of growing and ubiquitous social media, identity theft protection is such an important and fundamental measure to take. There’ll be more in later blogs about the devastation that happens when identities are stolen and just how pervasive it is. But for now, it will probably pay to ensure that your computer isn’t harbouring something unpleasant. You can get a free virus scan here.  It’s a good starting point for smart security. What are your experiences of social media viruses? 

Written by Steve Bell

Steve has a background in IT and business journalism and has written extensively for both the UK national and trade press including The Guardian, Independent-on-Sunday, The Times, The Register, MicroScope and Computer Weekly. He's also worked for most of the world's largest IT companies producing content producing. He has a particular focus on IT security and has produced several magazines in this area.

More articles by Steve Bell


  • S

    12 May 2014, 16:32

    Wow, this article is nice, my younger sister is
    analyzing these kinds of things, so I am going to inform her.

  • shantae alonso

    7 May 2014, 21:39

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!

    It's the little changes that will make the most important changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!


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