Twitter 'Honeypots' Lure 30,867 Spammers

Dennis Faas's picture

With thousands of people flocking to social networking sites each day, a campaign to reduce the ever-increasing spam attacks on Twitter should come as little surprise. What is unusual, however, is where funding for the research needed to crack down on Twitter spammers is coming from: Google.

Google is offering a grant to researchers at Texas A&M University. These researchers intend to trap online evildoers looking to spread malware and phishing software by using "honeypots" (fake twitter accounts) on Twitter.

Spammer Tactics, Behaviors Monitored

Honeypots are generated from a collection of 120,000 real 'tweets' created on Twitter. Their purpose is to help researchers learn about spammer tactics and monitor deviant behavior. Honeypots try not to imitate a real person and are separated from legitimate users. (Source:

Said Kyumin Lee, a spokesperson on behalf of the research project: "We have a [a program designed to look up our] profiles. It looks at what [spammers] put in their messages and also accesses their profile to see their demographic information and past updates."

In an effort to appeal to male 'tweeters', spammers were often found to be masquerading as college-aged females from California. The researchers also concluded that social networks like Twitter and Facebook are vulnerable to phishing, because users tend to trust their social networks more due to the widespread use of shortened URLs.

Google Benefits in the Long Run

Of course, Google has something to gain from their investment. In helping the competition rid the world of spammers, Google too will benefit in the long run. As it stands, 61 honeypots were able to lure in and collect information on 30,867 spammers on Twitter alone. The research team has also deployed honeypots on MySpace. (Source:

Lee hopes that Google will help fund part of a similar campaign on Facebook in the near future.

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