What is the purpose of this livejournal bot?
April 12, 2009 5:18 PM   Subscribe

What mischief is this LiveJournal bot up to?

An unknown livejournal "user", zdvovl, friended me, so I looked at the profile, and it had friended some of my friends too. (It had a friends list of over 200, about 8 of which were friends of mine). In some cases, there was no-one in the world, besides me, who could possibly know both of those users, or social circles, and there were clusters of friendings that aligned with social circles, so zdvovl was clearly using my friendslist (and those of my friends) to find users to friend. (Likewise, zdvovl was happy to friend ancient clearly-abandoned web-detritus accounts that it found in my friendslist, and other stuff that is unusual for genuine users to do).

I did a google search, and found some recent friendings that zdvovl was no-longer friends with. It appeared that zdvovl was trawling the network of friendships - it would friend users, use their friends list to friend their friends, de-friend them, and thus move through the social web of friendships, maintaining it's friendslist total in the 200s, but quickly making (and recording?) a far far greater number of connections over time. Mapping out who knows who? Recording all public lj entries? I don't know.

True to form, a few days later, zdvovl de-friended my account, and it has moved beyond the circles of users that I know.
Quirk: It doesn't appear to de-friend users that have friended it.

Livejournal has procedures for legitimate search-engine bots to follow, so I assume this is something illegitimate. (The name itself sounds generated - are there more of these bot-users?)

Does anyone know anything about this? Anything similar? What is the likely purpose of this bot? I can come up with a lot of speculative ideas, many of which would be an unwelcome use of Livejournal.
posted by anonymisc to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Trying to glean personal information from unlocked posts for fraudulent purposes.

Report your new pal here and LJ will take care of it-- remarkably quickly, in my experience, for LJ.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:20 PM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are lots of interesting things you could do with the data gathered that way, so it wouldn't surprise me if someone would write a bot like that just out of curiosity or proof of concept. The author might try spamming later on.
posted by delmoi at 5:36 PM on April 12, 2009

LiveJournal is ridden with bots such as this -- I was recently friended by "dedovs", who apparently serves much the same purpose. Some exist, as far as I can tell, strictly to irritate and frighten; some are just shilling a product. Ones such as these may be far more sinister, but I'm not certain how effective the spamming would be.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 6:09 PM on April 12, 2009

This reminded me of two recent Bruce Schneier posts: Social Networking Identity Theft Scams, and less relevant but I thought it was pretty interesting, Identifying People using Anonymous Social Networking Data.

The first of those links details an attack on, I guess you'd call it, the social web of trust, that works by friending people on various different social networking sites. Perhaps the bot you encountered was looking for accounts which would be vulnerable to something along those lines.

As far as I can remember, friending someone on LJ doesn't give you access to any more information than you had before you friended them. So the only reasons I can think of for a bot to friend someone would be to encourage them to friend the bot back (or otherwise respond, like by looking at a spam profile etc), or possibly to manipulate some anti-abuse algorithm that works off of friending patterns.
posted by hattifattener at 6:42 PM on April 12, 2009

It doesn't appear to de-friend users that have friended it.

My guess is that it's walking the network trying to convince people to friend it, until it accumulates a large number of such friends.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:37 PM on April 12, 2009

It's an ongoing problem with Russian bots. Read more here:

LJ's official advice is to report, using fairytale's link.
posted by theraflu at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2009

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