Security firm warns of new Twitter threat

Compromised Twitter accounts are being used to scam people into signing up for a "make money fast" Web site, security firm Sophos says.

An example of a scam on Twitter with the user information and the malicious link removed.
An example of a scam on Twitter with the user information and the malicious link removed. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Scammers are using compromised Twitter accounts to prey on suspecting victims, security firm Sophos said today.

According to Sophos, compromised Twitter accounts are sending out tweets and direct messages to followers, urging them to sign up for a site that will help them make money. One such message from an account reads, "I made $888 today check out how I made it." The message is followed by a link to a malicious site.

According to Sophos, the dollar amount in the tweets and messages can vary.

Sophos said that when people click on the included link, they are brought to a site that claims to help single mothers and teenagers make "thousands of dollars" each day. However, those who fall prey to the scam will only "end up out of pocket" if they sign up, Sophos said.

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As Barracuda Networks revealed back in February at the RSA security conference , Twitter has proven appealing to scammers because of its functionality both as a social network and search engine. And the worst part is, many of the site's malicious accounts are more popular than you might think.

Barracuda pointed to one Twitter account at the time that had 445 followers recently, even though it directed people to hosted shareware containing malware and Trojans. What's more, the company said at the conference that it found in its research of Twitter that just 43 percent of users were considered legitimate. The remaining 57 percent of users were "questionable."

Over a five-month period, Barracuda said at the time, it had found 34,627 samples of malware in search engines and on Twitter. According to the research firm, Twitter accounted for 8 percent of that total.

"It's interesting, because we've been doing this work for probably nine months...now, and the last time we really examined it and looked back on this, it charted very differently," Barracuda Chief Research Officer Paul Judge said back in February. "About 69 percent of the malware that we found was on Google at the time, only 1 percent was on Twitter."

But Twitter hasn't sat still. The social network last year launched a filtering service that aims at stopping malicious links from being included in direct messages. The company's link-shortening service, t.co, also helps to safeguard users from malicious links .

According to Sophos, keeping yourself safe from the latest threat is quite simple: don't click on the link in the direct message or tweet. Users who have had their accounts compromised should reset their passwords. Sophos also recommends those folks scan their computers for malware.

Twitter did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

 

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