Twitter fights back against spam, phishing, and other malicious links

Filed Under: Malware, Phishing, Social networks, Spam, Twitter, Video

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In a move that should be welcomed by many users, Twitter has announced that it is introducing a new feature to combat the many malicious and malware URLs that are distributed via the micro-blogging site.

In a blog entry posted by Del Harvey, Twitter's Director of Trust and Safety, it was revealed that the site will start using its own URL shortener (twt.tl) for Twitter messages sent privately between two users via a direct message (DM), giving it the opportunity to "detect, intercept, and prevent the spread of bad links across all of Twitter".

As Sophos's Chet Wisniewski told DarkReading, the new http://twt.tl shortened url appears to be only evoked with email notifications for direct messages at this time.

Details of how Twitter is determining if a link is potentially malicious or not do not appear to have been released at this time, and it would certainly be great if Twitter would post some more information on how the system will work and what users can expect to see.

It's also to be hoped that this new service will be rolled-out to other areas of Twitter too. We've seen many times in the past that phishing and spam attacks on Twitter don't tend to restrict themselves purely to DMs, but will also often be found in the public timeline too, as the following YouTube video demonstrates:

(Enjoy this video? You can check out more on the SophosLabs YouTube channel and subscribe if you like)

The problem of dangerous links being distributed via Twitter has been growing for some time, with some 70% of people polled by Sophos reporting that they have been on the receiving end of spam and malware attacks via social networks in the last year.

The news of Twitter's new twt.tl short url facility follows a few months after bit.ly announced that it would protect users against visiting webpages that may contain a malware, spam or phishing threat using technology from security vendors such as Sophos.

* Image source: wonderferret's Flickr photostream (Creative Commons)

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.