Social media "likes" are big business for virus writers

Everyone knows that you're supposed to protect your credit card and banking information online because there's a seedy unbelly of the Internet where people buy and sell stolen numbers for big bucks. The Zeus virus, in particular, is used to harvest your personal information as it travels between the computer and your bank, but that's not the only way to illegally make money on the Internet. Believe it or not, social media is also big business in general and for criminals in particular.

According to a report by Reuters, criminals have modified the Zeus virus. Instead of having it target banking information, it instead traverses Instagram and artificially inflates the number of "likes" on various posts. If you want to seem more popular, simply pay $30 for 1,000 Instagram "likes," or $15 for an extra 1,000 Instagram followers. By way of comparison, 1,000 credit card numbers can be purchased for a mere $6, a sign that banking fraud detection must be doing a good job. Apparently, research shows that the more likes and followers someone has, the more likely they are to be treated as important and thus trusted on the Internet. We find it hard to believe that a legitimate company would go this route, but this could be used by lesser-known entities as a way to boost their profile.

Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook last year for a cool billion dollars, is hard at work increasing the security features of Instagram to help prevent this underground market.

Neowin doesn't pay for "likes," so all 11,919 of our Facebook "likes" and 18,513 Twitter followers are completely legit, as are my meager 351 Twitter followers; feel free to add to our totals, but don't use the Zeus virus to do it.

Source: Reuters | Social media image courtesy of Shutterstock

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