Scammers are targeting Instagram users by creating fake profiles to gather personal details before attempting to trick users into signing up for premium-rate mobile services, among other ruses.
Fake profiles on the social network often feature "women" with attractive profile pictures who have never posted any photos. Their profile bios include a quote, followed by a shortened URL. These links almost invariably point to advertisements for fake jobs working in social media.
Mobile messages spammed by these fake profiles point to a premium mobile service sign-ups of dubious utility, such as videos of cute animals for only €4.50 per month.
The fake profiles are part of a wider pattern of scams on Instagram, according to Symantec.
"The scams take on a number of forms, from spam comments, to fake followers, to liking photos in the hopes people will check out their profiles, which in turn often contain more spam links," Paul Wood, a security researcher at Symantec, explains in a blog post.
Instagram's photo-sharing and social network services were acquired by Facebook in a cash and stock deal eventually valued at $715m at the time it went through in September. The growing popularity of the photo sharing social network, which boasts more than 100m members, means that it is becoming the target of the fake profile scams that have bedevilled Facebook and Twitter for some time.
The latest monthly edition of Symantec's internet threat report also reports a significant drop in spam volumes during October, with the global spam rate dropping by more than 10 percentage points, from 75 per cent of email traffic in September down to 64.8 per cent in October. The (likely temporary) respite may be down to down to a decline in one prominent spam-spewing zombie network.
"It appears that the Festi botnet has recently gone quiet and could be partly responsible for this sudden decline. This botnet was very active in early September before all but disappearing in October," according to Symantec's study (PDF).
Security researchers at the security giant caution that spam volumes might easily increase towards the holiday season as other zombie networks pick up the slack.
"Unfortunately, we’ve seen drops like this before, where other botnets soon jump in to pick up the slack, or a “dead” botnet is reincarnated in a slightly different manifestation. For example, the Kelihos botnet is now believed to be in at least its third incarnation since Microsoft targeted the botnet in the company’s efforts to disrupt the botnet over 12 months ago." ®