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It's Easy To Seem Popular When A Virus Gives You Instagram Followers

Lily Hay Newman, Gawker Media

It's Easy To Seem Popular When A Virus Gives You Instagram Followers

There are always those greedy people who would wish for more wishes from a genie. They're what's wrong with this whole internet fairy tale. And now they're using malware developed for pilfering credit card numbers to give out likes and followers on Instagram. For a price, of course.

According to RSA, the security division of EMC, a virus called Zeus can be used to dole out 1,000 likes or followers at a time. On forums a unit of followers costs $15, while the likes cost $30. A block of 1,000 credit card numbers can be as cheap as $6. Hackers figure that inflated Instagram numbers are more valuable than credit card numbers to companies and organizations trying to offer the appearance of a strong social media presence.

Facebook bought Instagram last year, and company spokesman, Michael Kirkland, told Reuters that they are working to address this and other security issues for Instagram's 130 million active users. He said:

We work hard to limit spam on our service and prohibit the creation of accounts through unauthorized or automated means.

Zeus is on hundreds of millions of PCs and has been around for at least five years. But its age may help security researchers defeat it, because they know what to look for when Instagram followers or likes seem suspicious. RSA says that Zeus infects computers from a central server and manipulates likes from certain controlled users, whose accounts can also be manipulated to download other malware.

The trend to use viruses and other security exploits for gaming social media reflects the perceived necessity of appearing popular on these sites. But an empty following is only useful in the short term for show. If it doesn't spark actual interest the high numbers are hollow because they don't help a company or other group reach consumers. And then you're just paying to talk to an empty room. [Reuters via The Verge]

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