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Twitter hits fan as scams smite banks, cabinet ministers

Harman gets hacked, Miliband's account peddles penis pills

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The Twitter phishing attacks from earlier this week stepped up a gear on Friday with huge volumes of spam from compromised accounts, some of which belonged to UK cabinet minsters and even a bank.

Pwned micro-blogging accounts include high profile targets such as Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. His account sent out links to a site selling knock-off male potency pills after Miliband (or more likely his research staff) fell victim to a phishing scam earlier this week, Sophos reports.

Perhaps even worse, telephone banking specialist First Direct (@first_direct) was also hit by the phishing attack, forcing it to make a series of apologies. "We were hacked last night - please disregard any inappropriate tweets that purport to come from us," First Direct admitted on Friday morning, adding that only its Twitter account was affected.

"Just to clarify - no password issues, it was a link in a DM. No customer / personal data has been compromised. Sorry for any offense caused," it later explained.

Victims were fooled into logging into a counterfeit site that requested Twitter login credentials after responding to a run of phishing lures that were widely distributed earlier this week. The lures often came in the form of direct messages with the lines such as "This You????" or "LOL this is funny".

The unwary were then confronted with Twitter's infamous fail whale when they handed over their login credentials to bogus sites, a tactic presumably designed to leave them none the wiser about the fact that their accounts have been commandeered by cybercrooks.

Other victims of the scam have included the Press Complaints Commission, BBC correspondent Nick Higham and the Guardian's head of audio Matt Wells, The Guardian sheepishly reports.

Web User adds that Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman was another victim.

Net security firm F-Secure reckons the timing of the phishing-to-Twitter-spam attack may have something to do with recent search engine deals.

"Yahoo announced that they'll begin to include Twitter's real-time feed into their search results and Facebook is now included in Google's search results," an F-Secure blod entry on the attacks explains.

"The bad guys can use social networking trust to enhance their SEO attacks."

Twitter is advising users to change their password. Victims would also be well advised to check whether they have been signed up to dodgy services via OAuth during the time their micro-blogging account was compromised. ®

Bootnote

A big thank you in 140 chars or less to Reg reader Paul Eagles for the heads up on the First Direct Twitter pwn. "Let's hope they are more secure with their banking systems than their twitter account," he writes.

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