So who is really behind
Gus G. Sentementes

When we went to track identities in TheRealStrategy botnet, looking at the different Twitter accounts, (among others) we found photos of dead people gleaned off of newspaper articles and of scantily clad women taken from porn sites. [We used to be able to do reverse image searches on most photos, but now these botnet operators are adding photo filters that break the reserve search tools.] At the time we did that research (Spring 2016) those accounts were likely created automatically — by a computer program that auto-generated the account, did some cross-following with other accounts it operated (to make it look like a real account within the social network), and then scraped photos from the Internet to add to the account profiles. We couldn’t tell if TheRealStrategy created those accounts or if they were buying them from someone who creates Twitter accounts for profit. We did find evidence that some accounts changed purposes during 2016 — as if they were employed for TheRealStrategy for some period of time (perhaps rented) and then they were employed by a different individual or organization for a different purpose later. We still have some uncertainty about some of this, but that was our best guess as to what was happening — i.e. there’s a market to create and then sell or rent out automated Twitter accounts (bots) for political and financial purposes.

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