Thousands caught out in Twitter scam

February 27, 2010

Tens of thousands of Twitter users, including at least two government ministers, have been caught out in an internet scam. Online security experts warn social networking sites are being hit by ‘phishing’ scams, which can be used to steal internet users’ identities.

The latest victims include Energy Secretary Ed Miliband and Women and Equality Minister and Leader of the Commons Harriet Harman, who have both had automated fake messages sent from their accounts to Twitter followers.

In Mr Miliband’s case a tweet was sent which read ‘hey, i’ve been having better sex and longer with this here’, with a link directing people to a website selling herbal viagra.  Other malicious links direct users to pages where Tweeters are conned into giving away passwords and login details.  Graham Cluley, an internet security expert, advised anyone who was caught out to change their password and delete connections they do not recognise.

“A third of users are playing Russian Roulette with their identity by having the same password on every site they access,” he said. “If Mr Miliband made that kind of mistake, he has potentially opened up his email, eBay, PayPal and Amazon account… basically, his entire online life handed to hackers.”  Mr Cluley advised politicians to take the lead in online security, saying: “They should be setting an example for the rest of us. Too many of them are being a little bit lackadaisical.

“But what’s happened over the last week is not just for MPs, everyone on Twitter is at risk of receiving these messages, which can be quite convincing.”  Twitter bosses wrote on their blog: “Over the past few days, we’ve seen an increase in phishing attempts and are working on resetting passwords for accounts that were affected.”

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