We started this series presenting baseline information of some tools and terms used for those that are unfamiliar with the terminology of some tech talk. Tactical Incursion Bots Infiltrate Unaware Twitter Users — Part One and Tactical Incursion Bots Infiltrate Unaware Twitter Users — Part Two.
It has been a short few weeks since Steven Lundgren, while checking the Followed By list of his Twitter account, uncovered several suspicious followers.
A Bot by Any Other Name is Still a Bot —
This has been quite the journey, following PSB researchers, Pamphlet, Steven Lundgren, Trip Elix, RW, and many other experts, digging for connections among the bots and who was controlling them.
Initially the issue was identified as just bot accounts. Unfortunately, it has now been documented as something much bigger in scope. This was more than just a bot. Our fears had turned to reality.
Many of bot accounts collected have been changing their habits. The deeper the team investigated them, the more suspect they became as these bots appeared to react to investigative research. At least two of our researchers were blocked from access to the bots they were examining.
Bots are initially programmed and launched by people having an agenda. “These people are stupid,” is the comment that comes to mind.
Of the first batch of bot accounts identified, 29% of the bots as well as their associated domains of the websites the bot posts discovered were registered to one person, Peter Orum.
The first round of notable bots spread messages of how to make explosives, bomb-making, how to build 3D guns, how to commit suicide, political dissension and terrorist tactics among other nefarious topics.
Bots can be utilized to help build the psychological profile of each user followed. Even ignoring the postings can be interpreted as a flaw in one’s caring about the number of followers. This would indicate a passive personality. This too can create a profile of a user.
One theory of how the bots on Twitter select a targeted user utilizes AI to identify a user’s interest, the habits, and proclivity to retweet content. However, many users do not look at their timelines to verify the validity of who or what a user is followed by.
The first week or so of examining the suspected bots patterns and profiles, as well as the websites the bots are deployed from had many common themes, making them easier to identify.
These bots, under examination, were short-lived throughout the researchers’ investigations. Many of the bots started changing what started as a basic Twitter account that had no background banners and no user profile picture. After a short time, several of the bots upgraded their accounts to include the missing data becoming populated to appear more like a real person.
In a recent meeting with our researchers, I ask if they consider the bots to be safe bots or bad bots in classification. I was set back when Trip Elix said “there are no good bots.” He clarified that all are bad bots in that they all collect data without your knowledge. Trip continued, “every time you make a purchase, anytime you visit a website, even searches you make are cataloged to help build your personal profile to sell to advertisers and other buyers of your information”.
I was told a couple of years ago, by a wise individual, “use discernment then reconcile.”
Trip’s statement needs discernment, pointing out a bigger issue of the goals made by the bot’s controller or whoever is collecting the information.
Generally we don’t consider the big picture. We talk and text using cell phones, not aware that what we regard as a private communication tool has become like a party-line telephone of the past, listening and building a personal profile of us. Need I mention the GPS monitoring of your location? Your cell phone could be considered a bot in a larger size than we assume a bot to be.
The wider context, including the bots that are infiltrating Twitter accounts, is all about the collection of data that describes an individual as well their likely natural responses in various situations.
At this time, the bots are reportedly more than a nuisance. Unethical practices being employed conceal the identities behind the targeting actions on Twitter and other platforms. Those concealed identities demand further investigation in order to protect the public.
- Bots and artificial intelligence are still being investigated and will be released when updates are available.