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News

Facebook ad targeting being used as conduit for spam

BitDefender UK : 10 March, 2014  (Technical Article)
Bitdefender explains the latest way spammers are delivering their messages through the advertising targeting tools within Facebook
Facebook ad targeting being used as conduit for spam

New research from Bitdefender has revealed that scammers are increasingly taking advantage of Facebook targeting tools and user trust to push cheap pharmaceuticals, designer replicas and other products in a trend reminiscent of traditional spam.

Over 24 million Facebook users are active daily on the social network in the UK and 33 million unique individuals log in every month. A six-month study by the software provider shows that the rapid growth of the social network and the precision of its advertising tools are prompting criminals to lure Facebook users with tempting offers that may, like traditional spam, end in stolen user data.

The Bitdefender research on 50,000 unique domains revealed that pharmacy products account for 33 per cent of suspicious Facebook adverts. Replicas comprise 30 per cent, gambling covers 18 per cent and dating accounts for 19 per cent.

“Facebook has a very comprehensive list of targeting options, which allows scammers to maximise their success,” states Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Strategist at Bitdefender. “The fact that the adverts are contained within a trusted environment definitely lures in more users than your average spam message.”

Ad-targeting options on Facebook range from selecting age groups and geographical areas to people with shared interests. Unlike email spam, this allows for a very precise targeting of potential scam victims.

“Popular examples are adverts for high-value prizes such as electronics, cars or large sums of money,” adds Catalin Cosoi. “A click takes users to fraudulent schemes that persuade them to give away sensitive data such as personal or credit card details. They may also be tricked into installing a malicious piece of software, lured into an SMS sweepstakes scam or taken to shops selling counterfeit goods.”

The research, entitled ‘Digging into Facebook ads: finding clues that indicate a scam pattern’, is detailed in a whitepaper found on the Bitdefender website.

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