How did the FIS do against the socialbots? Not well. Only 20 of the socialbot zombies got blocked – all of them female, and all because other Facebook users flagged them as spam. Essentially the FIS did nothing to stop them.
What kinds of mayhem could this cause? Aside from harvesting your information for social engineering purposes (ie, scamming you), such bots could be used to manipulate public opinion on a large scale, creating astroturf campaigns and spreading propaganda.
Look at the impact of Twitter and Facebook on the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran for starters. Now imagine what the secret police in another country could do with that tool. Or a corporation or politician, for that matter.
Actual human scammers have been doing this sort of thing for a while (see “Facebook’s fake friends epidemic”). And so far this is just a research exercise – socialbots have yet to be spotted in the wild. But once some scammer figures out how to automate this on a wide scale, watch out. There will be no stuffing the toothpaste back into the tube.
Remember that, the next time a hot looking stranger with a vaguely generic profile description tries to friend you. Just call him Mr. Bot (No relation to Ed.)
Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.