ENTRIES TAGGED "spam"

Stacks get hacked: The inevitable rise of data warfare

The cycle of good, bad, and stable has happened at every layer of the stack. It will happen with big data, too.

First, technology is good. Then it gets bad. Then it gets stable.

This has been going on for a long time, likely since the invention of fire, knives, or the printed word. But I want to focus specifically on computing technology. The human race is busy colonizing a second online world and sticking prosthetic brains — today, we call them smartphones — in front of our eyes and ears. And stacks of technology on which they rely are vulnerable.

When we first created automatic phone switches, hackers quickly learned how to blow a Cap’n Crunch whistle to get free calls from pay phones. When consumers got modems, attackers soon figured out how to rapidly redial to get more than their fair share of time on a BBS, or to program scripts that could brute-force their way into others’ accounts. Eventually, we got better passwords and we fixed the pay phones and switches.

We moved up the networking stack, above the physical and link layers. We tasted TCP/IP, and found it good. Millions of us installed Trumpet Winsock on consumer machines. We were idealists rushing onto the wild open web and proclaiming it a new utopia. Then, because of the way the TCP handshake worked, hackers figured out how to DDOS people with things like SYN attacks. Escalation, and router hardening, ensued.

We built HTTP, and SQL, and more. At first, they were open, innocent, and helped us make huge advances in programming. Then attackers found ways to exploit their weaknesses with cross-site scripting and buffer overruns. They hacked armies of machines to do their bidding, flooding target networks and taking sites offline. Technologies like MP3s gave us an explosion in music, new business models, and abundant crowd-sourced audiobooks — even as they leveled a music industry with fresh forms of piracy for which we hadn’t even invented laws. Read more…

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Deconstructing a Twitter spam attack

Data analysis shows the structure of a network can separate true influencers from fake accounts.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the effect fake Twitter accounts have on brands trying to keep track of social media engagement. A recent tweet spam attack offers an instructive example.

On the morning of October 1, the delegates attending the Strata Conference in London started to notice that a considerable number of spam tweets were being sent using the #strataconf hashtag. Using a tool developed by Bloom Agency, with data from DataSift, an analysis has been done that sheds light on the spam attack directed at the conference.

The following diagram shows a snapshot of the Twitter conversation after a few tweets had been received containing the #strataconf hashtag. Each red or blue line represents a connection between two Twitter accounts and shows how information flowed as a result of the tweet being sent. By 11 a.m., individual communities had started to emerge that were talking to each other about the conference, and these can clearly be seen in the diagram.

Strataconf tweeting communities

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