The rise of social botnets: Attacks and countermeasures

Jinxue Zhang, Rui Zhang, Yanchao Zhang, Guanhua Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Online social networks (OSNs) are increasingly threatened by social bots which are software-controlled OSN accounts that mimic human users with malicious intentions. A social botnet refers to a group of social bots under the control of a single botmaster, which collaborate to conduct malicious behavior while mimicking the interactions among normal OSN users to reduce their individual risk of being detected. We demonstrate the effectiveness and advantages of exploiting a social botnet for spam distribution and digital-influence manipulation through real experiments on Twitter and also trace-driven simulations. We also propose the corresponding countermeasures and evaluate their effectiveness. Our results can help understand the potentially detrimental effects of social botnets and help OSNs improve their bot(net) detection systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7790819
Pages (from-to)1068-1082
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Social bot
  • digital influence
  • social botnet
  • spam distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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