Twitter.Grader.com hacked, tweets sent for SEO purposes

Filed Under: Social networks, Spam, Twitter, Vulnerability

The onslaught against social media continued today when someone managed to hack into Grader.com, a service to measure inbound marketing leads from Twitter, Facebook, and other media.

Tweet from anonymous friend about seonixAround 11:30 am PST this morning I started getting some tweets that were a bit out of character from some security colleagues I follow. The messages said "Biz Stone Promoting Twitter in 2006 @ http://seonix.tld/2010/02/11/biz-stone-promoting-twitter-in-2006/ #funny #crazy #twitter #1337". One look at the #1337 and the seonix and I instantly smelled a rat. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and wherever it pops up in social media is nearly always a scam.

Dharmesh tweet confirming hack

All of the messages were sent from Grader, which in Twitter-speak is the service used to post the message via API to Twitter. Dharmesh Shah of Grader has confirmed that they were compromised and are working on resolving the issue. Strangely enough Dharmesh's account was victimized as well, yet the tweet on his page says it was sent from web.

This is a really unfortunate situation as Grader is an upstanding service and was used as a middleman in this attack. Users who are careful with not having their passwords phished, who only use OAuth-based services for Twitter can still have their identities tarnished through a flaw in someone else's systems.

I did a scan of the page that was being spammed this afternoon and did not discover any malware or exploits present, however that does not mean it will remain clean. It would appear to simply be a very underhanded tactic to gain more links for SEO purposes.

I hope Google, Bing, Yahoo! and the others will take exception to these tactics and remove results pointing at the seonix site, however reacting to each one of the many market manipulators out there may not be practical. At the time of writing when searching for the text in the tweet it ranks number 3 on Google.

There is not much advice for those of us who use social media on this one, other than to follow your instincts and to think before you click. If you are like me, you a friends with or follow a small enough number of people that you can tell when something is amiss. If it sounds dodgy, looks dodgy, or simply outside the types of messages you normally receive, don't click.

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About the author

Chester Wisniewski is a Senior Security Advisor at Sophos Canada. He provides advice and insight into the latest threats for security and IT professionals with the goal of providing clear guidance on complex topics. You can follow Chester on Twitter as @chetwisniewski, on App.net as Chester, Chester Wisniewski on Google Plus or send him an email at chesterw@sophos.com.