SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Twitter bots create a third of the world's misinformation

By Sara Barker
Wed 21 Nov 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Lies, fake news and misinformation – this is the age of the internet, and Twitter bots are largely responsible for perpetrating it.

That’s according to a study from the US University of Indiana, which dug deep into the 2016 US presidential campaign. Researchers analysed 14 million messages and 400,000 articles shared on Twitter between March 2016 and May 2017.

They found that automated bots spread one third of articles with the lowest credibility scores. They also found that bots also target ‘influential’ users who are heavily active on Twitter. 

Why? They think it’s because people are vulnerable to manipulation and share some of the content originating from bots.

New Zealand’s Science Media Centre quizzed two local New Zealand experts from the University of Auckland on what they thought about the study. Here’s what they had to say.

University of Auckland Business School Department of Information Systems and Operations Management, associate professor Lech Janczewski

"The use of social bots in spreading false information is based on a mechanism identical to that used in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attacks,” says Janczewski.

"A DDoS attack is based on creation of bots - networks of devices connected to the internet and infected with special attacking software controlled by an attacker. Almost anyone can buy or find tools online to create bots that act across thousands of terminals, with the power to spread false information to millions. Infection is possible if a device does not have the capabilities to detect malware in the received message.

"Bots exploit the fact that there is no built-in way to verify who is sending information over the internet. The TCP/IP telecommunications protocol – an international set of rules for data transmission - cannot verify senders’ identity unless extra security apps have been installed on the receiver.

"As the first step to protect yourself from bots, switch your device to 'secure mode' (seen on your browser by conversion of 'http' to 'https'). That is only possible if the transmitter is ready to use the https mode. However, a skilled attacker may override that as well,” Janczewski adds.

"Significant numbers of bot messages are recognised by SPAM filters but not all of them. Spotting a message coming from a bot can sometimes be tricky.

"Basically, it is up to the user to accept a message after answering ‘yes’ to these two questions:

1. Do I have a proof that the message came from the source it is claiming? 2. Is the transmitter known as a source of reputable information?"

University of Auckland Business School Information Systems and Operation Management associate professor Arvind Tripathi

"This study finds that social bots (automated fake accounts on social media platforms) play a disproportionate role in spreading misinformation or fake news.

"We already knew that bots play a role in spreading fake news. However, this study quantifies their disproportionate role and identifies the mechanism they employ in spreading false information,” says Tripathi. "This study has analysed 14 million messages to confirm their findings.

Disproportionate roles:  "Authors found that only 6 per cent of social media accounts, tagged as bots, were responsible for spreading 31 per cent of all tweets linking to fake news (low-credibility articles) and 34 per cent of all fake news (low-credibility articles).

Spreading mechanism:

"Spreading patterns of fake news are less conversational, these are mostly spread via original tweets or retweets by bots, not via replies or comments.

"As fake news spreads, more tweets are concentrated in the hands of few accounts which is opposite to the organic way of spreading the factual information. When information spreads in an organic way, the contribution of any individual account or group of accounts should matter less.

"Social bots post content, interact with each other, and with legitimate users just like real people and so it is easy to get duped on social media platforms believing in fake news,” Tripathi says.

"Social bots are deployed to promote fake content which comes from low-credibility sources that mimic news media outlets.

Recommendation: 

"If you are looking at a news or article (link) that is published on a news source that you have never heard of, you should be concerned. There are many fact checking sites that list these dodgy sources but new ones can be created as quickly as old ones are identified.

"The safe approach is to only rely on well-known news media channels such as CNN, New York Times, BBC or known local media sources. For example, if news is only promoted by an obscure source, one should be concerned. One can easily click on that account to see if this account is only promoting these articles or is engaged in other conversations as well."

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Adatree, Brother, Databricks, Nutanix & Rubrik
We round up all job appointments from May 20-26, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Could New Zealanders initiate a cyber attack from within?
The threat landscape is significantly increasing worldwide, and the opportunities it presents are a growing concern in Aotearoa.
Story image
PIJF
The path to bolstering supply chain security in New Zealand
A significant amount of today's business and leisure activity relies on IT supply chains. From complex international freight trades to local small business distribution channels, any supply chain that involves IT infrastructure serves as a crucial tool in our daily lives. 
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft NZ and TupuToa to boost diversity in cybersecurity sector
Microsoft NZ has teamed up with TupuToa to co-develop a cyber security employment programme specifically aimed at creating more diversity in Aotearoa's cybersecurity sector.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner reveals top three tech trends for banks this year
Gartner says generative artificial intelligence, autonomic systems and privacy-enhancing computation are gaining traction in banking and investment services.
Story image
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
Phishing
Vishing attacks reach all time high - Agari and PhishLabs
"Hybrid vishing campaigns continue to generate stunning numbers, representing 26.1% of total share in volume so far in 2022."
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC organisations fail to disclose ransomware breaches
85% of organisations in APAC were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 28% publicly disclosed the incident.
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Training
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
The post-pandemic workforce requires secure IAM capabilities
HID Global discusses what identity and access management means for organisations in today's convoluted digital world.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC ranks third-highest region targeted by ransomware
Asia Pacific has ranked the third-highest region globally to be targeted by ransomware, according to cybersecurity firm Group-IB.
Story image
Ransomware
Employees on the frontline of cyber defense - report
In the first quarter of 2022, employees found themselves more than ever at the frontline of cyber defense, according to a new report from Kroll. 
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Ponemon Institute
Email revealed to be riskiest channel for data loss
More than half (60%) of organisations experienced data loss or exfiltration caused by an employee mistake on email in the last 12 months.
Story image
Phishing
WhatsApp and QR codes the next scam threat - report
KnowBe4 has warned it expects to see an increase in QR Codes and the WhatsApp chat platform being used for phishing and other scams. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Microsoft
Global cybersecurity insurance market worth $11.5b this year
Future Market Insights finds the cybersecurity insurance market is expected to reach USD$11.5 billion in 2022, growing to $61.2 billion in 10 years.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Story image
Cybersecurity
What every CISO must answer to enable a best-in-class security operations program
It has been widely reported recently that South Australian government employees have been the victims of a cyberattack.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Cybercrime
The ups and downs and runarounds of catching cybercriminals in NZ
We're becoming more and more aware of cybercrimes but how many criminals actually get caught? The New Zealand police explain why the answer is complicated.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
BYOD / Bring Your Own Device
How zero trust can lead the battle against ransomware
SecOps teams champion a zero trust strategy to support the fight against the escalating risk of cybercrime and help monitor threat actors across a network.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Asia Pacific plagued by sophisticated bad bots - report
The three most common bot attacks were account takeover, content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Transport
Third-party automotive apps bear significant privacy risks
Mobile applications for connected cars provide various features to make life easier for motorists, but they can also be a source of risk.
Story image
Malware
Fortinet introduces self-learning AI in latest offering
Fortinet is introducing self-learning AI capabilities in its new network detection and response offering, FortiNDR.