Researchers Have Closed in on a Mischievous Moose Who Tinkers with Social Media Likes

Dream of animals
I enjoyed typing that title a bit too much, and I'll be the first to admit it. No, sadly this isn't not an actual moose we're talking about, but a piece of malware. Far less exciting/madcap, but still interesting.

The moose malware creates a botnet, infecting connected devices to build a network through which it can carry out its nefarious dealings, and in the moose's case, this involves like-farming to gain social media revenue. Buying and selling followers on social media is big business, and commonly when you see certain accounts with thousands of followers, 95% or even 99% of them are about as human as a tin of spam.

The moose uses the hijacked network to create multiple accounts and just 'like' away until the, erm, moose come home. Yes, the plural of moose is moose, and yes I did have to look it up. Also 'buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo' is a grammatically correct sentence, so now we've both learned something today.

Accounts of who is actually buying up these huge stacks of likes range across professions and nationalities practically the world over, there's no getting away from how sprawling the 'ego market' really is. Some celebrities have even been linked to it. The argument is that if you look like you have a lot of followers, people will assume there's a reason, and you'll get more. I would outline the fallacy in this approach but I feel like I really don't need to.

Now though, a team of Canadian researchers have been able to close in on the Linux/moose malware. Nowhere near close enough to actually pin down the people most directly responsible, mind you, but enough to hopefully encourage law enforcement to get more directly involved. It might seem like a victimless crime, but think about all the innocent (if desperate) people shelling out to get their Instagram account noticed.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the moose malware is that it doesn't actually use computers that much. Any kind of networked hardware is fair game, up to and including fridges, toasters, and just about anything else that might be connect to a home network. If you recently got an Alexa, you might understand why that's kind of scary, and also screw you for being able to afford an Alexa.

There's already enough evidence to demonstrate the staggering breadth and depth of this operation. This is 21st century snake oil, and social media is the snake. How long it'll take before any kind of formal investigation is launched is anyone's guess, but this insight into this weird, shallow black market is certainly an eyebrow raiser.

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