Social media networks have become a valuable resource for cybercriminals everywhere. They present an opportunity for hackers to easily target individual users and an interface that can be manipulated to trick unsuspecting victims into clicking on dangerous links and exposing themselves to malware. Recently, cybercriminals have been taking advantage of the marketing value of these websites to bolster their other enterprises.
In a very short amount of time, social media networks grew from a perfunctory marketing gimmick to a business imperative, allowing companies to directly engage a wide range of potential customers. Photo- and video-sharing website Instagram has become one of the most valuable social media sites in terms of marketing value. Some estimates state that a single Instagram follower is worth 10 gained through a Twitter account. Getting the most marketing value out of these sites can be extremely beneficial to a business and help drive revenue. By gaining a large number of "likes," online ventures can demonstrate their value to skeptical clientele, encouraging them to take a chance on an unknown product or service simply because a large number of digital shoppers ostensibly did as well.
Zeus malware re-emerges
Hackers have found a way to generate valuable publicity for products and services by creating fake followers and "likes" for them. The Zeus malware, which has already seen numerous permutations including as a banking Trojan and mobile strain, serves as the basis for the recently discovered program. Anyone looking to jump start his or her new business venture with some instant buzz for a forthcoming or recent release can hire cybercriminals to deploy this software. Once the Zeus variant has infected a user's computer, a command and control server sends instructions on which posts the victim's account should like and which Instagram members should be followed. The value of social media popularity is such that 1,000 credit card numbers can be purchased for the less than half the cost of 1,000 Instagram followers.
One of the concerns with this latest cybersecurity threat is that the malware's activity is so subtle, the average user may not even notice its existence. A random social media "like" can be easily explained away, resulting in victims failing to properly address their network vulnerabilities. This could put networked workstations at risk for infection, as the malware could easily move from machine to machine. A robust system restore and recovery solution could help network administrators better monitor activity on their hardware and streamline the process of downloading and installing security updates. This would allow IT personnel to secure their machines quickly and with ease.