Twitter Attacks Getting Smarter

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2009-07-28 Print this article Print

How well do you know Twitter tweets, or do they know you?

Attacks that prey on users of the Twitter social networking service have been ramping up for some time, but researchers are pointing to increasingly complex, personalized versions of the threats in recent weeks.

Rik Ferguson, a researcher with TrendLabs, recently called out a particularly interesting variation of Twitter attack, and his colleagues at the endpoint security maker are highlighting the use of spambot technology to help drive the threat campaign even faster and further.

The spambot being used seeds itself with phony Twitter accounts that have the capability to create human-like stream of consciousness posts about random news topics and Web sites it "visits."

After generating enough tweets to seem realistic, the accounts also begin posting links to malware sites, which are obscured via the use of URL-shortening tools.

In one specific campaign noted by Trend, attackers are also employing the time-honored phony PC anti-malware tools angle in attempting to lure people into swallowing their bait.

In recent use of URL-shortener, attacks have been using the tool to mask posts to URLs that trigger redirections leading to the phony AV download RegistryEasy.exe, which promises to repair registry problems but instead displays trumped-up results simply to convince users to pay for the product.

However, the attack also tips attackers hands a bit by eventually leading users to a site where they can download "Bot Lite, a light Twitter bot that virtually anyone can use." Ferguson confirmed that the program is a functioning Twitter spambot, the one used in the campaign in fact.

So there you have it - not only have social networks become primary targets for malware and social engineering attacks, but some of the most creative threats aimed at users of the systems are already becoming commercialized, essentially turned into rental platforms for beginners.

It's not hard to imagine a future where the programs will be smart enough to pick keywords from our own posts to use in attacks against us.

The solution?

"We've all been drilled and drilled into not opening suspicious and unsolicited email attachments. With 92 percent of malware being delivered via the Internet it's way past time to apply those same good habits to suspicious and unsolicited links, whether received by e-mail, instant message, Twitter or any other medium," Ferguson said.

Seems pretty easy in theory, but really, who can you trust these days?

And if a robot can figure out what kind of music you listen to and what types of URLs you visit that easily, you probably deserve to be infected anyway.

Oh wait, have you been reading my Twitter posts?

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel