Cryptocurrency–One of the industry’s worst proponents is a pervasive, network of scam bots that has quickly come to litter the space of Twitter. While most social media users have become accustomed to the incessant “Ethereum giveaway” scams that adorn the profile of any crypto industry figure, the problem has begun to bleed over into other sectors of the internet. Elon Musk famously called out the bots earlier in the summer, when he made his first reference to Ethereum in the form of a tongue-in-cheek comment about the annoying extorters.
Today new research has been published by the cybersecurity firm Duo Security showing just how bad the problem of cryptocurrency scam bots has become on Twitter, revealing a network of at least 15,000 individual accounts. The researchers used machine learning to differentiate real and bot accounts, as well as classifying the scammers by their propensity towards cryptocurrency (often in the form of giveaway ploys). In all, the company trawled 88 million Twitter accounts, looking at the most recent 200 tweets to come to the conclusion that at least 15,000 were bot accounts dedicated directly to scamming via cryptocurrency.
The study mentions the malicious nature of the bots, relying upon the expectations of users who see a profile picture and blue check mark representative of real accounts like Binance and Vitalik Buterin, despite being run by bots,
“Users are likely to trust a tweet more or less depending on how many times it’s been retweeted or liked. Those behind this particular botnet know this, and have designed it to exploit this very tendency,”
The action has gotten so severe that Ethereum’s Founder Vitalik Buterin has been forced to change his name to Vitalik Non-giver of Ethereum. While most Twitter users have become adept at recognizing and tuning out the scam bots, not everyone is so fortunate. In addition, the study found that crypto bots due engage in behavior to avoid detection and deletion, making the overall effort of removing scam accounts a difficult undertaking,
“The bots’ attempts to thwart detection demonstrate the importance of analyzing an account holistically, including the metadata around the content…For example, bot accounts will typically tweet in short bursts, causing the average time between tweets to be very low. Documenting these patterns of behavior can also be used to identify other malicious and spam botnets.”
Twitter, who has taken a hard stance against cryptocurrency in the form of banning all crypto-related ads, has been slow to address the problem of scam bots despite the negative atmosphere they create on the platform. Buterin, in reply to Elon Musks’ “mad skillz” tweet mocking the crypto bots, called upon Jack Dorsey and the Ethereum development community to find an issue to the problem. Twitter responded to Duo’s findings with an admission of working to improve the problem,
“Spam and certain forms of automation are against Twitter’s rules. In many cases, spammy content is hidden on Twitter on the basis of automated detections…less than 5% of Twitter accounts are spam-related.”