Twitter phishers and spammers are out on the prowl, and more than a few unsuspecting educators have fallen prey to their clever ruses and hacks in the last two days. The posts on the official Twitter blog “Gone Phishing” from Saturday and “Monday Morning Madness” from today provide more insights. Even Barack Obama’s Twitter account was hacked. I wrote the post “Avoid Twply.com and change your Twitter password frequently” last Friday, and that advice appears to be quite timely.
I received “Twitter spam” today from four different educators whose Twitter accounts were compromised in some way, either by a phishing scheme, a website with malicious operators which solicits Twitter credentials, or hackers. What are the lessons learned here?
- Use a secure password on your twitter account and change it periodically.
- Be VERY wary of EVER putting your twitter password into a website that isn’t the official Twitter site, or into a program you run on your computer or handheld that you can’t verify to trust. Just like bank and credit card phishing schemes, people are now phishing with fake twitter sites, so beware of links to Twitter you receive in email.
- If your twitter account has been hacked, try to login and change your password to something secure immediately. Then follow the above suggestions to KEEP it secure and private. If you have lost control of your twitter account, then contact the Twitter support team directly for assistance.
I blocked the user accounts from which my Twitter spam originated today, and appear to have been compromised. I am hoping that will mean I won’t receive further twitter direct message spam messages from their accounts. So far, so good. I also tried to contact the individuals whose accounts were sending spam either via email or leaving comments on their blogs or social networking pages. 3 of the 4 people included website links in their public Twitter profile, so I was able to attempt electronic contact to give them a heads up. One person said she’d been inundated with emails from friends about it, because evidently they had also received the spam direct messages via Twitter. She hadn’t used her Twitter account in four months, since August, so I’m not really sure how someone managed to take control of her account.
Alan Levine touted praises for “Andy M’s Yahoo Pipe for putting your twitter followers locations on a map” this evening, but with all these examples of Twitter phishing I’m reluctant to put my Twitter credentials into ANY website other than Twitter.
Anyone have suggestions on how to decide which new websites to trust with your Twitter credentials, and which ones are better to avoid? I’m thinking the conservative path of not trusting ANY of them with Twitter credentials (including a password) is the best policy. I still am going to keep using Twitter Karma, however, unless I hear or read of a problem with it– I LOVE its functionality and haven’t found another site to match it yet.
Most people probably need some reminders and proddings to follow good password security procedures. The Joomla Installation Guide (PDF) by Andy Wallace includes a list of guidelines as good as I’ve seen anywhere regarding password security. On page 13 under “Secure Password Thinking” he writes:
Any password you create for Joomla!, MySQL, Apache, or in fact any passwords you ever create should be
made as secure as possible.
Typically this would mean:
- using a minimum of 6 characters -the more the better but 8-10 should be an ideal
- a mixture of upper and lower case alphabet characters, numbers, and permitted special characters
for example -, _, *, $, !, %, although the use of these may be governed by the host settings on
shared or virtual hosted, remote servers
- do not use easily identifiable passwords for example, birthdays, children’s or family names or words that could be easily associated with you
- in fact try not to use real words at all, replace letters with their numeric equal so the word ocean could become 0c34n (yes – I know it is a real word and there are only 5 characters but it is just an
example) try 0c34n!c – and no do not now use that either
- another way is to think entirely off-the-wall. Think of a favourite novel for example, The Hitch-hikers
Guide to the Galaxy, and then take say the first and last letter from each word giving a sequence of
letters (as indicated by the underscores):
Example 1. t e h s g e t o t e g y
this clearly means absolutely nothing but it could still be traced – eventually – by a determined
cracker so let us mix it up a bit more:
Example 2. T 3 h $ 9 3 t 0 T 3 g Y
but you can now see that it would be a pretty illogical logic that would need to be applied to even
come close to cracking that and when the additional security features of the various platforms is then
laid over the top of this – we would not want to say it is impossible to crack, but they would take a
very long time, and of course you should regularly change your passwords anyway.
- if you keep a written record of your passwords always ensure they too are kept secure and safely out
of the way of prying eyes
- despite the temptation, try to avoid using the same password for all your various access
requirements, both at home and at work
When I went to work for AT&T in 2006 I was amazed and a bit shocked how many different passwords I had to create for different accounts, and how often I was forced to change them. In many cases, employees were/are FORCED to use secure passwords and change them often. This is not popular, but it is smart, both for organizations and for individuals.
It’s time for us all to “act smart” when it comes to password security, for Twitter and for other sets of login credentials. The next time someone takes you on a fishin’ trip, make sure it’s the kind that starts with “f” and not “ph!”
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