Hackers tweet, infect Twitter users with scareware

'Security nightmare' arrives; hackers use exploit kit to spread fake security software

The latest attack to hit Twitter is a "security nightmare" and marks the first time hackers have taken to using the micro-blogging site for profit, a researcher said today.

Unlike earlier cross-site scripting attacks on Twitter, the latest wasn't a worm, said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior antivirus researcher with Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs. Instead, it's something even scarier: The first instance of hackers serving up "scareware," fake security software that, once installed, nags users with so many alerts that some fork over $50 or more just to "register" the program and get rid of the warnings.

"This is just another scareware installer," Schouwenberg said, referring to the malware that's downloaded onto victimized PCs. "There's no worm component. But it's quite significant as it's the first time that Twitter's been used for a traditional type of attack."

Over the weekend, Twitter users began receiving tweets with the phrase "Best Video" and a link to a Russian domain. Although those who clicked on the link were directed to a site with a video, they were also served a malicious PDF document via an IFRAME on that site. The PDF, said Schouwenberg, contains a number of exploits, and tries each in turn. If it's able to compromise the computer using one of those exploits, the malware then installs phony security software.

The PDF appears to contain attack code from "LuckySploit," a relatively-new multi-strike hacker toolkit that uses malicious JavaScript, said Schouwenberg.

On Saturday, Twitter warned users of the tweets with the "Best Video" link, then later noted that it had suspended compromised accounts, but would restore then shortly after they'd been scrubbed.

Twitter's not able to remove any malware installed by the attacks, of course, leaving that chore up to users.

Schouwenberg's sure that Twitter's talk of cleaning accounts was a smokescreen, as unlike attacks in April, this one wasn't a worm. "There was no self-replicating code in the binary," he said. Instead, Schouwenberg believes that the malicious tweets were sent from Twitter accounts whose log-on credentials had been hijacked previously by basic phishing-style scams.

"When I first saw this Saturday night, I thought of the Twitter phishing attack, which was quite high profile," said Schouwenberg. "Phishing always has a greater purpose ... so when all of a sudden you see a new 'worm' but there's no worm component [in the attack code], it's clear that this was based on compromised accounts, rather than self-replicating."

Schouwenberg also found the links in the malicious tweets on multiple Web forums, giving credence to his theory that hijacked accounts were used to launch the scareware attack.

Twitter users should expect to see more such attacks, Schouwenberg said. "The whole idea of Twitter is to click on links," he said. "It's a security nightmare."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Scarewaretwitter

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?