Beware shortcuts for getting more followers on Twitter

Filed Under: Data loss, Phishing, Social networks, Spam, Twitter

TwitterThere are various different ways of getting more followers on Twitter.

The easiest method is to be a celebrity. It doesn't matter if you tweet anything interesting, you'll probably find a fair number of people will follow you regardless.

Alternatively, you could try to tweet something that people find useful or amusing or informative on a regular basis. If you put in the hours, write great tweets and be yourself then you may find others are happy to follow you and engage with you online.

But if both of those options sound far too tricky, you might be tempted to try the Twitter equivalent to a "get rich quick" scheme in your hunt for more followers.

Take these messages which are currently appearing on Twitter, for instance:

Get more followers tweets

GET MORE FOLLOWERS MY BEST FRIENDS? I WILL FOLLOW YOU BACK IF YOU FOLLOW ME - [LINK]

If you are tempted to click on the link, you will be taken to a webpage which offers you a service that promises hundreds or thousands of new followers. Many different websites exist like this, here's just two of the sites we have seen being used in the current campaign.

Get more followers webpages

Although the graphics differ, the basic template of the site remains the same - including options to either pay for a VIP plan or try out a free service that promises hundreds of new followers.

I must admit I smelt a rat, and so I created a brand new Twitter account to see what would happen if I tried out the "free trial".

Get more followers username and password request

Hello hello.. what's this? The pages ask you to enter your Twitter username and password. That should instantly have you running for the hills - why should a third-party webpage require your Twitter credentials? What are the owners of these webpages planning to do with your username and password? Can they be trusted?

In the bottom right hand corner, they admit that they are not endorsed or affiliated with Twitter.

Now obviously I wasn't going to hand over the password for my @gcluley Twitter account, so I entered the login details for the test account I had just created instead.

Before I knew it, I was presented with a familiar Twitter dialog box asking me if I really wanted to grant an application access to my Twitter account.

Get more followers authorise app

Common sense would hopefully tell you to step back at this point, and not allow the app's authorisation. But if you're hungry for new followers maybe you would continue, oblivious to the risks.

But sadly, some people are too keen for new followers. And they pay the price in the form of a message promoting the followers service is posted to their feed. In this way, the links can spread rapidly between Twitter users.

Get more followers tweets

What surprised me the most however is that I started to get many more followers on my test Twitter account. Other, seemingly random, Twitter user began to follow my test account in huge swathes and my account began to follow seemingly random people in return.

Although this may seem like a good thing, it isn't. After all, the rogue app has now made your account follow scores of seemingly random Twitter users - if you have no interest in what they have to say, you're going to find that pretty irritating.

Blue birdFurthermore, if you're just playing a numbers game on Twitter you're fooling no-one but yourself. It doesn't actually matter how many people in total follow you on Twitter - what's much more important is how many people are listening to what you're saying on Twitter.

It's no good, for instance, if you have five million Twitter followers but there aren't actual people sitting behind them, reading what you have to say.

In other words, these "get more followers fast" apps are a waste of time. You're not interested in what random people are saying on Twitter, so why should random people care about what you have to say?

Furthermore, who's to say that some of these new people who you are following are not cybercriminals, planning to tweet out malicious links or spam messages in your direction?

Twitter has published information on its help pages which describes the dangers of these "Get More Followers Fast"-type websites and apps.

So, what should you do?

Well, if you fell for the trap and granted the rogue application access to your Twitter account, revoke its rights immediately by going to the Twitter website and visiting Settings/Applications and revoking the offending app's rights.

Revoke Twitter application

But don't forget that you entered your username and password on the third-party website too! That means you should consider your password to now be compromised, and you should change it as soon as possible.

Remember - the fact that you gave them your username and password means they could in theory log into your account and read any of the information you store up there - including your email address and your private direct messages.

If you take no action against attacks like this, don't be surprised if the unknown parties who now have control over your Twitter account use it to commit crimes or cause a nuisance.

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5 Responses to Beware shortcuts for getting more followers on Twitter

  1. They probably used a torrent style distribution to limit the number of accounts they needed to create to raise the follower count. Affected users follow other affected users. Probably pretty obvious.

  2. It's hard to feel sorry for anyone who suffers any undesirable consequences from using theses services.

  3. poche · 1022 days ago

    ive been using this on a dummy twitter account for more than 6months already using the same password since day 1 and account is still intact with 16k followers.

  4. Andy · 738 days ago

    what is this fixation about follower numbers?

    Surely it is QUALITY, not quantity that counts?

    I get really bored reading the "hey, I have only need x more followers to get to x number" - who cares? What does it really acheive?

  5. Shelly · 413 days ago

    This was indeed helpful in alot of ways! Common sense is not always common and some people need to see these things

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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.