The market for fake Twitter followers is going strong.
According to new research from Barracuda Networks, the number of sellers they have seen hawking Twitter followers on eBay has gone up from 20 in June to 52. The average price per thousand followers is currently $11.
That can translate into big money for the sellers, as the average number of followers per person purchasing them was 48,885. This is actually a drop-off from June, when the number was 52,432.
“Most fake accounts automatically tweet through Twitter.com instead of using a third party or mobile app,” the firm noted in as blog post. “Ninety-eight percent of tweets from fake accounts are sent via twitter.com vs. 24 percent of tweets from real accounts.”
Sixty-three percent of Fake Accounts are created by duplicating profiles from real users. Often, attackers add victims to a Twitter List to get their attention.
Daniel Peck, research scientist told SecurityWeek there was little that Twitter could do “algorithmically” to detect and flag the duplicated accounts due to the finite number of usernames available to for people to create an account.
In some cases, fake accounts are used to spread spam and malware. However, sometimes people are looking to buy fake followers for other reasons as well. Most of the time, it revolves around gaining clout and appearing to be popular, Peck said. For instance a musician trying to look like he has more fans to impress venues or labels, or a software startup looking like they have more people interesting in what they’re producing to look more attractive to advertisers and investors, he noted.
“In summary people still have a large appetite for having a large number of fake followers in order to seem more popular,” according to the firm. “Fraudsters are cashing in on this in a big way and even lowering prices to compete against each other.”
“Lastly, we see the attackers continuing to innovate to find ways to monetize the increasingly popular platform of Twitter,” the blog post continued. “This is the situation that we are seeing with most social networks and new applications. Not only is this abuse continuing on Facebook and Twitter but we also see it on emerging social networks like Tinder and others. As more users are present in any ecosystem, the attackers focus their efforts there.”