The malware, first surfaced in 2007 as a botnet network to steal banking and credit card information, and has infected millions of computers. In its modified form, the virus forces infected users to follow or like specific accounts, or to download other viruses. It’s not clear how many people have been targeted by the latest version of Zeus.
As social media becomes increasingly more important in shaping the reputations of people and businesses, hackers are using their skills to create false endorsements, according to cyber experts at RSA, the security division of EMC Corp.
As Reuters reports, these fake “likes” are then sold in batches of 1,000 on online forums, and can fetch surprisingly high prices. According to security firm RSA, 1,000 Instagram followers sell for around $15 online, while 1,000 “likes” selling for $30. The same number of credit card numbers, by comparison, go for as little as $6.
Online marketers say they sometimes advise clients to purchase social media followers to kickstart their campaigns, though relying too heavily on false buzz can soon backfire, making the brand look cheap or spammy.
Facebook, which has almost 1.2 billion users, insists it is stepping up security at Instagram, which it brought last year for $1 billion. Instagram, which has just 130 million users, will soon have the same security measures as Facebook. Hackers are using the Zeus virus to create fake ‘likes’ and followers from users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. The scheme is aimed at making products appear more popular.