Social Media Countermeasures – Battling Long-Running Scams on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Social Media Countermeasures – Battling Long-Running Scams on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For the past few years, I’ve been documenting, screenshotting, and sharing examples of criminal campaigns on the three big social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. I’m not that interested in speculating whether or not something is fake content, falsely amplified by nation-state sponsored threat actors (i.e. coordinated inauthentic behavior), but instead I’ve been focusing on two (a lot less media-sexy) themes:

  1. low-tier criminals using these platforms to promote their services
  2. so called “support scams” targeting mainly Facebook page owners

What is common across these two is the fact that they keep getting through social media platforms’ automatic filtering. I call this filtering – the good-willed type, not the censorship type – social media countermeasures. A term I think I picked up from Destin who runs Smarter Every Day YouTube channel, but I haven’t really seen it used. In a nutshell, social media platforms are trying to create countermeasures to prevent malicious behavior on their platform, and at the same time cyber criminals are developing counter-countermeasures to bob and weave their way around detection and filtering. Sometimes these criminals simply operate in a grey area not covered explicitly by a platform’s Terms of Service, making developing effective countermeasures even harder. Let’s take a look at few examples.

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The Curious Case of Automated Instagram Influencer Sponsorship Emails

The Curious Case of Automated Instagram Influencer Sponsorship Emails

If an email sounds too good to be true, we’ve learned to dismiss it as phishing or otherwise fraudulent, even if it managed to evade the email client’s junk filters. However, I’ve seen a rise of new type of automated emails that deserve a closer look, as they behave quite differently from your average spam. These emails are from seemingly legitimate businesses, targeting specific email addresses associated with Instagram Creator accounts, and offering some type of an influencer marketing deal.

Global influencer marketing spend is growing rapidly, and Instagram grabbed a lion share – 8 billion dollars – of it during 2020. So, it’s not out of the question for even smaller Creator accounts to get approached by (smaller) brands, but there’s definitely something fishy about the following emails. Let’s look at some examples.

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YouTube Channel Phishing, Part 2: The Enemy Evolves

YouTube Channel Phishing, Part 2: The Enemy Evolves

Last year I took a first look at a phishing campaign that was interestingly targeting YouTube channel owners’ email addresses. The aim of the campaign was to guide people to fake YouTube sign in page and phish their login credentials. Note, this did not target YouTube accounts in general, but actual channels. These were my main findings:

  • Despite being hilariously obvious, first four of these were not caught by ProtonMail’s spam filter
  • Out of several YouTube channels I manage, only one has been targeted
  • Same email was CC’d to others
  • Unclear where they have found my email address
  • Senders’ email service providers started as Russian. Little to no typosquatting involved.
  • After few iterations, phishing content seems to have reached its final form (for now)

The campaign came in a burst, stopping as suddenly as it had started. Now after a couple of months it has started again, and it’s time to re-examine what has changed.

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“YouTube channel will be disabled within 24 hours!” Phishing Campaign First Look

“YouTube channel will be disabled within 24 hours!” Phishing Campaign First Look

During past few months I’ve witnessed and been targeted by rather simple, but still interesting phishing campaign. Well, not me personally, but instead a YouTube channel that I run. This campaign has noticeably sped up in November, so I decided to take a closer look at these phishing emails and share with you my findings.

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