Attackers Use Fake Friends to Blend into Facebook

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Attackers Use Fake Friends to Blend into Facebook

Barracuda Labs Unveils New Research Study Analyzing Facebook Profiles

View the Infographic: Facebook: Fake Profiles vs. Real Users at

Campbell, Calif. (February 2, 2012) – Barracuda Networks, a leading provider of security, networking and data protection solutions, today released findings from Barracuda Labs’ most recent study, Facebook: Fake Profiles vs. Real Users. The study analyzes a random sampling of 2,884 active Facebook accounts to identify key differences between average real user accounts and fake accounts created by attackers and spammers. The results of the study are being presented today at the 2012 Kaspersky Threatpost Security Analyst Summit in Cancun, Mexico.

Facebook, which filed for IPO this week, has become an important part of personal and business communication. The company consistently fights to keep attackers out of its network, most recently announcing its lawsuit against a marketing firm accused of “spreading spam through misleading and deceptive tactics”. The Barracuda Labs study provides yet another example of this “arms race” as an increasing number of attackers move to social networks to carry out their wares.

Highlighted findings from the Barracuda Labs study include:
•    Almost 60 percent of fake accounts claim to be bisexual, 10 times more than real users
•    Fake accounts have six times more friends than real users, 726 versus 130
•    Fake accounts use photo tags over 100 times more than real users, 136 tags per four photos versus one tag per four photos
•    Fake accounts almost always (97 percent) claim to be female, as opposed to 40 percent for real users

“Likes, News Feeds and Apps have helped lead Facebook to its social network dominance and now attackers are harnessing those same features to efficiently scale their efforts,” said Dr. Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks. “These fake profiles and apps give attackers a long-lived path to continuously present malicious links to innocent users.

“Also, researchers have shown how friending malicious accounts can lead to account takeover using Facebook's trusted friend account recovery,” Judge continued. “We have analyzed thousands of fake accounts to determine features and patterns that distinguish them from real users, and created a feature-based heuristic engine to distinguish real users from fake profiles.”

The study analyzes data collected from Barracuda Profile Protector, a free tool that analyzes and blocks malicious activity on Facebook and Twitter, along with public data collected from streams and network crawling to demonstrate how users typically operate. The study illustrates how attacks on Facebook are structured to exploit the “friendship” concept and trust of widely-used applications. A variety of machine learning techniques are used to analyze shared URLs, profile images, profile information, and connections with other users to reveal associations, weak and strong, between malicious users.

•    Download the Infographic: Facebook: Fake Profiles vs. Real Users at
•    View the Barracuda Labs security research portal at
•    Install Profile Protector at
•    Follow Barracuda Labs on Twitter at @barracudalabs

About Barracuda Labs
Barracuda Labs is a global multi-disciplinary research and threat analysis team that fulfills a critical role in developing innovative technologies across Barracuda Networks' business areas. The team evaluates the threat ecosystem and creates security intelligence to defend Barracuda Networks customers. Barracuda Labs' threat research areas, which include email, Web, network and cloud security and technology, are designed to improve the world’s security posture by promoting security awareness and education, developing and innovating new defense technologies, and working with government and law enforcement agencies to reduce cybersecurity crime. For more information, please visit

About Barracuda Networks Inc.
Barracuda Networks combines premises-based gateways and software, virtual appliances, cloud services, and sophisticated remote support to deliver comprehensive content and network security, data protection and application delivery solutions. The company's expansive product portfolio includes offerings for protection against email and Web threats as well as products that improve application delivery and network access, message archiving, backup and data protection. Coca-Cola, FedEx, Harvard University, IBM, L'Oreal, and Europcar are among the more than 150,000 organizations protecting their IT infrastructures with Barracuda Networks' range of affordable, easy-to-deploy and manage solutions. Barracuda Networks is privately held with its International Headquarters in Campbell, Calif. For more information, please visit


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