Tactical Incursion Bots Infiltrate Unaware Twitter Users -- Part One

Tactical Incursion Bots Infiltrate Unaware Twitter Users — Part One

Over the past few weeks, Patriots’ Soapbox researchers have found disturbing information about infiltrating bots circulating on Twitter.

On September 16, 2019, Radix Verum wrote for Patriots’ Soapbox News, “WARNING: Something Strange is Happening on Twitter,” revealing information uncovered by Steven Lundgren (@love4thegameAK), that a few odd-looking, unfamiliar followers were on his “followed by” list.

At the time of the discovery, Steve had accumulated approximately 200 unknown followers that appeared to be bots.  The final total of these bots was as high as 950 before the bot operators blocked Steve and other researchers looking into the group.

A list of bots identified contained a similar message theme involving various explosive ingredients, using weapons, making poisons and more.

After Steven discovered the number of his followers using the same theme in their accounts, he knew he had stumbled on something very unusual.

What is a bot? (From wiki)
An Internet bot, also known as a web robot, robot, or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots.


Efforts by servers hosting websites to counteract bots vary. Servers may choose to outline rules on the behavior of internet bots by implementing a robots.txt file: this file is simply text stating the rules governing a bot’s behavior on that server. Any bot that does not follow these rules when interacting with (or ‘spidering’) any server should, in theory, be denied access to, or removed from, the affected website. If the only rule implementation by a server is a posted text file with no associated program/software/app, then adhering to those rules is entirely voluntary – in reality there is no way to enforce those rules, or even to ensure that a bot’s creator or implementer acknowledges, or even reads, the robots.txt file contents. Some bots are “good” – e.g. search engine spiders – while others can be used to launch malicious and harsh attacks, most notably, in political campaigns.

Steven created a list of the accounts, which he reported to Twitter and various Federal Agencies.

It’s nice to have followers on Twitter, but not this sort. These fake followers can implicate you by posting about explosives, poisons and other nefarious topics, implying a terrorist background or intent, and on a platform with arbitrary and “unknown” laws governing content. Having these particular bots following you could result in a guilt-by-association situation with no recourse for an accused to reverse any actions taken by law enforcement or platform owners.

One mistake made by many of us is to expect everyone we follow and are followed by us, to share our same values. This belief has built into us an unwarranted trust for followers on Twitter. We forget that all things are not equal in this situation. Humans have human flaws.  However, technology with flaws evolves into new tech without the flaw.

Of the 330 million registered global users on the Twitter social platform, at last count, our researchers have uncovered 900+ unique bots. Think 900+ is an insignificant number, too small to wreak havoc? For example, if each bot follows 50 users, that adds up to 45,000 infected users.  Add to that, the bots spreading to all the followers of the infected users, and the numbers multiply on and on.

Now we can look back to the subjects the bots are posting.  We have the potential of 45,000+ users that can be hosting the bot’s message. Among the bots identified,  there are a variety of subjects covered, from poisons to high-grade explosive guides and their links, to the associated topic of the bot’s post.

Think about that for a minute. Ask yourself: “Do I have these topics in my feed?” “What if someone sees these messages?” It could be too late.

A scenario that could arise might be:

Breaking:  The Main Mall in “Your Town” has been put on lock down and police are advising everyone to stay away from the scene. A speaker from the Your Town police department reports that a possible explosive device has been located, bomb-sniffing dogs and the bomb squad are en route. The speaker also advised that the FBI, DHS, and ATF are on site. 

Officials in the cyber-crime unit say they are looking for a profile of the suspect on social media. More news as this story develops.

How many times have we heard this type of report during a time of an alleged attack on a public space or even a school?

From the scenario above, note that a cyber-crime unit is building a profile from social media. In their profession, cyber-crime units query data using keywords. The bots could be posting these keywords into your Twitter account, and you could be implicated by proxy.

 


 

Steven recognized that the bots he isolated were more than he could handle alone. He then reached out to “Freedom Rings,” the PSB (Patriot’s Soapbox) call-in chat on their YouTube channel.

PSB channel’s owner, Pamphlet, was hosting when Steven called. He explained how and what he found, but was not sure of exactly what it was.

In astonishment, the host was visibly shocked. Steven continued explaining what he had found, prompting Pamphlet to ask Steven to contact him directly.

During the interview, the Soapbox audience began checking their own social media accounts to see if any bots Steven named were following their accounts. Many in the audience reported that they also had some of the same bots that Steven was reporting.

The live stream chat members and I searched, applying the information spelled out by Steven during the interview.

When the interview concluded, Pamphlet began contacting the PSB staff researchers to look into the subject to determine if this was some sort of a targeted attack on like-minded Patriot accounts.

What they found was astonishing.

 

 — Check back soon, more of this information is still being researched —

 

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