EU Referendum Petition Hijacked by Bots

An online petition that called for a second EU referendum has been hijacked by automated bots adding false signatures.

Posts on the message board showed that some users had scripted programs to automatically sign the petition with thousands of signatures coming from people in Vatican City and Antarctica.

The House of Commons petitions committee said it was investigating the case and had removed 77,000 signatures.

The petition currently holds more than 3.6 million signatures and continues to gather hundreds of signatures a minute, but many could have been added by automated programs called bots.

Rik Ferguson, of Computer Security trend firm Trend Micro, said: "With any online property that is designed for interaction, you need a mechanism in place to defeat automated means of adding content.

"4chan is famous for this sort of mischief - and if websites don't have systems in place, they will get abused."

The government’s petition website does not appear to have a system in place to detect bots.

Mr Ferguson added: "It seems like a huge oversight for a website designed to be used by so many people to lack simple protection.” 

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