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An annoying Twitter-based Mafia game is getting under the skin of users of the micro-blogging service, many of who would sooner it slept with the fishes.

Mobster World is the Twitter equivalent of the Zombies application that used to be popular on Facebook. Most users come across the service via unsolicited direct messages inviting them to become wiseguys and join a mafia family (as below).

Hey, I just added you to my Mafia family. You should accept my invitation! :) Click here (tinyurl)

The invite includes a link to a site called playmobsterworld.com. Would-be Tony Sopranos who accept the invite allow the game to access their Twitter feed while simultaneously sending out a new set of invitations to "friends of theirs" (ie any followers with direct message ties), The Guardian reports.

Subscribers aren't explicitly informed that the spamming behaviour will happen (information on how you might avoid this is buried in the small print of the game's website). It's also far from straightforward to opt-out of the game once you've signed up.

The game involves doing "jobs" to earn cash and respect as well as attempting to find fresh recruits for a user's fledgling crew. Reports of this activity are sent to contacts, leading to a potential barrage of update Tweets. Users had allowed the application to access their feed via OAuth so this can happen without a user's further involvement.

Mobster World has been around on Facebook for some time, where it has around 1,200 regular users, but it's over on Twitter that it's causing the most grief. The game is doing nothing malicious as such. However a decision by the owners to hide their identities behind Domainsbyproxy hardly inspires confidence, as The Guardian notes. Users who wish to opt-out of the game can best revoke access via the Twitter connections page here. Opting out directly via the playmobsterworld.com website is reportedly difficult, if not impossible.

We sent a message to the developer of Mobster World via Facebook but are yet to hear back at the time of going to press. We'll update this story as and when we hear more.

The mafia-themed game is similar to a previous Twitter-based game called Spymaster, which was pwned after one wag figured out a way to crash the in-game economy. Like Mobster World, the gameplay of Spymaster was restricted to interactive texts or, to innocent bystanders, spammy updates.

Rik Ferguson, a security researcher at Trend Micro, said that Mobster World is arguably the most spammy of a range of similar games on Facebook and Twitter.

"I have confirmed through test accounts that the game [Mobster World] will make tweets and send DMs on an ongoing basis, even when you haven't performed an in game action. It's not an avalanche of tweets, but it does happen. If you are actually playing the game it does cause an absolute avalanche of tweets, though."

Similar games on Facebook include Mob World, Mob Wars and Mafia Wars. There's also Spymaster, on both Twitter and Facebook, and 140 Mafia on Twitter, Ferguson explained.

"They all vary in notification intensity and willingness to use your account without advance warning, none are overtly malicious or deceptive. Mobster World though at least was certainly deliberately obscure about what would happen when you signed up because its site features 'faded out' text warnings," he added. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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