Feeds

Promoted tweet scheme ripe for abuse

Fresh security threats in 140 chars or less

Security for virtualized datacentres

Miscreants are highly likely to take advantage of Twitter's move towards making money through ad-supported micro-blogging updates, security watchers warn.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone announced on Tuesday that the micro-blogging service would begin selling advertising to select firms through a newly-established Promoted Tweet program. The idea finally answers the question of how Twitter intends to make money while posing fresh security challenges.

The trial phase of the program will involve blue chip firms such as Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America. As the scheme takes hold, however, and expands towards to becoming a sort of AdWords for micro-blogging then ne'er-do-wells will almost inevitably start taking an interest, anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software warns.

"We’re wondering how long it will be before the online pharmacies, botnet operators and rogue security product pushers decide to mimic Twitter’s ads for their own nefarious purposes," Sunbelt analyst Tom Kelchner writes. "Like the search engine optimization techniques that have taken advantage of the big search services, there will be attempts to use the promoted tweets. And there will be countermeasures by Twitter and the rest of us in the anti-malcode world."

Fiendish types may abuse the new commercial service by disguising links to booby-trapped sites as sponsored Tweets, Kelchner adds.

David Harley, director of malware intelligence at security firm Eset, noted that Twitter is already used as a precursor to search engine manipulation. "Misuse or mimicking of ads may even be inevitable," Harley told The Register.

Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs, explained that in its first phase the scheme will work in a similar way to “sponsored links” in Google, so when users search for something in Twitter they will see the promoted tweets. Over time this is likely to be expanded so that promoted tweets will go to anyone in certain country, or using a particular language, or belonging to a group, or even to everybody.

Corrons said "Imagine if a cybercriminal had a chance to send a malicious tweet to each and every Twitter user? I’m sure that Twitter will take security measures to avoid these kind of abuses, but we all know that 100 per cent security does not exist," he added.

The Spanish security expert reckons it's also possible that cybercriminals might pay to deliver links to dodgy sites. "Cybercriminals will use any platform that can be worth to spread their malware creations," Corrons told The Reg. "If they are using regular tweets to send spam and distribute malware, why wouldn’t they use these ad tweets?

"Having to pay it’s not a problem, as they can use our previously stolen credit cards. We have already seen similar behaviour on other platforms, such as Google’s DoubleClick," he added. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.