Fake social accounts: Another problem for marketers to monitor
For New York City-based threat intelligence firm IntSights, it’s a never-ending battle against posts from imitation brands and CEOs.
If any marketers feel their list of things to worry about is getting too short, here’s another one to add:
Fake social media accounts.
Not just fake social followers, or fake influencers. Those are separate items on your list. These are social media accounts that purport to be from your brand or your CEO.
Except they’re not.
To get a better sense of how common and problematic these are, I chatted recently with Guy Nizan, co-founder and CEO of threats intelligence firm IntSights.
He told me that, of his firm’s approximately 100 brand customers in the US, about half have detected fake brand accounts, and about a third found fake CEO accounts.
Why would someone go to the trouble?
Two major reasons, Nizan said. Criminals are looking to steal money, of course. With a fake corporate account for, say, a financial institution, they can reach out to customers and ask for logon or other credentials. By first setting up a fake website, they can then add social media identities to support and promote their online presence.
The other major reason, he said, is damage to a brand’s reputation by a disgruntled employee, customer or even someone organizing against the brand.
Aside from tips by customers and employees, Nizan said, the most efficient way to detect these accounts is via automated tools, such as those employed by his firm. He said IntSights is “one of the few” that offers automated tools for this endeavor, including ones for remediation.
The tools search for related names and similar logos, using visual and text searches. Instead of Bank of America, for instance, the fake site might call itself The Bank of America Group.
Another telltale sign: the number of followers and the creation date. A zillion followers for an account created three weeks ago obviously throws up red flags.
Coming: Deep fakes
When fake accounts are discovered, IntSight sends a takedown request to the platform. Nizan noted that, among the three social platforms his firm covers — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — Facebook “is really good.”
If there is an accompanying website, there is also a request to the relevant registrar to delete the fake domain, since it infringes on the brand’s ownership of its name and reputation.
As one might expect, this hunt-and-destroy operation always results in more fakes popping up later, somewhere else, in a continual cat-and-mouse game. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a way for brands to avoid their creation.
And they will continue to be enough of a headache. But, with deep fake videos emerging to show very realistic live-action footage of prominent individuals saying or even doing things they never actually said or did, is this whole field of fake social accounts about to exponentially increase the harm it can do?
“We are planning for that,” Nizan said, “but we don’t have a solution today.”