We’ve long speculated that social web spam and abuse carry greater consequences for users and site owners than simply being a nuisance. In fact, they pose significant reputation risk and cost to nearly all Internet businesses.

Today we unveiled the Impermium Index — the first, comprehensive set of data and analysis on the types and severity of social web spam and abuse. It shows that not only are social web attacks growing exponentially in number, but there is an increasing sophistication to the tactics used by spammers; we also reveal that your user growth stats may not be as accurate as you thought.

Our first report — Summer 2011 edition — is below.  It’s based on a large representative sample of the social web — more than 104 million social media transactions collected over a 100 day period (June – August),  from a base of more than 90 million users spread across 72 countries.  Transactions analyzed in our first Impermium Index report included user generated content (UGC) posted on social networks, blogs, social bookmarking sites, and many other places around the Web.

Interested in what we found? Some of the disturbing trends include:

  • Impermium Index Social Web Spam Trends of Summer 2011

    Online ID signup fraud: Fraudulent accounts range from a low of 5 percent to an astonishing 40 percent of users. Scammers are registering accounts by the millions as they perpetrate fake “friend requests,” deceptive tweets, and the like, while the black market for bulk social networking accounts is growing exponentially.

  • “Sleeper cells” of social web abuse are a ticking time-bomb. In August, Impermium helped protect one prominent social network from a coordinated attack by more than 30,000 fraudulent accounts, which lit up in a single hour and attempted to submit more than 475,000 malicious wall posts. Even accounts you’ve had for years could be lying in wait for just the right moment.

  • Social media exploitation techniques are evolving fast. If there is a strong consumer brand or significant news event, it’s being exploited on the social web. Social scammers are increasingly using emotionally-charged news to win clicks, relying on the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Amy Winehouse, and news around Hurricane Irene and other major stories, to deceive users into clicking on malicious links.
  • Uggs was the #1 most exploited brand in social media channels by a factor of 2x over Gucci and 5x over Prada, proving that it’s still 2009 in spam land.
  • Porn got stripped. The top consumer categories for social web spam were fashion and electronics, which outperformed porno scams by 3x.
  • Mom & Pop are spammers. Small businesses are getting into social web spam.  Impermium’s research found a growing number of small businesses like local restaurants and even Super Shuttle-style services which are reacting to the difficult economy by expanding into spam.

For site owners, the rampant issue of registration fraud has many significant ramifications including a company’s ability to accurately value its user base and determine the actual cost of new customer acquisition. Check out the infographic (licensed under Creative Commons for use with attribution) for an overview of the trends highlighted in the Index.