Beware of the bots: how they're created and why they matter

November 21, 2017

The world of politics is not the only realm that should be concerned about bots, spam, and fake news. Business owners and enterprises will also encounter these at some point, if they haven't already.

TechRepublic's Dan Patterson met with Distil Networks' co-founder Rami Essaid to discuss how social media bots and fake news work, how to defend against them, and why your business may be a target.

A botnet is any type of computer program script written to emulate a real person. When referring to social media, it's a fake profile or account. Often times, bots and fake news go hand-in-hand because bots are used to spread fake news stories. "With bots, you can get a lot of scale very, very quickly," Essaid said. "And so something that normally wouldn't have got the time of day can be amplified and seem legitimate in a matter of seconds."

These accounts are created through different bots. Essaid explained that because the web has become very programmatic, scripts can be written out to create accounts in seconds. It works by writing one script and one botnet that will create email addresses, another bot that will create Twitter accounts to go with those addresses, and sometimes a third bot that will create phone numbers to verify those social media accounts. "It's very purpose-built bots that all come together piece by piece to create what looks like a legitimate profile online," he said.

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