With video streaming site Twitch paying lucrative wages to celebrity gamers, it was inevitable—botnet-for-hire services that use hacked computers to fraudulently inflate viewership.
According to a report published Friday by security firm Symantec, underground markets and, in some cases, sites on the open Web host several services promising to generate large viewing audiences on Twitch and other streaming sites. One such service claims that each infected computer can be commandeered to open five separate streams carried on a selected broadcaster’s Twitch channels. (To keep owners of the compromised computers in the dark, the streams are hidden and muted.) Premium services also offer automated “chatters” that interject users’ comments live during the streaming.


An ad for one for-hire Twitch botnet. Symantec

“While many broadcasters stream their gameplay online as a hobby, some have managed to turn it into a well-paid full time job,” Symantec researcher Lionel Payet wrote. “Over the past few years, this business model has grown sharply, so it’s unsurprising that scammers are piggybacking on the industry in a parallel underground economy.”
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