A modified version of the computer virus, named Zeus, has been discovered generating fake followers and “likes” on the photo and video sharing service, Instagram. The virus, originally designed to control computers remotely, is being used to force infected computers to like posts on Instagram. Cyber criminals are looking to sell fake Instagram users and likes to help companies seem more popular and successful than they really are.
Fake users and likes are sold in batches of 1,000 on internet forums where criminals also share and sell stolen credit card numbers and other personal information. According to Reuters, 1,000 fake Instagram followers sell for $15 and 1,000 fake likes for $30. Interestingly, stolen credit card numbers sell for as little as $6. For many companies, paying for fake success is worth the money.
This modified Zeus virus shows just how important social media is for marketing online. Companies have been trying to buy success even before Instagram with fake Twitter followers. Businesses will have to tread carefully as fake users are easily spotted, leading to backlash.