We’ve often written about how rude it is when people don’t respond on Twitter. Now, it’s more than rude; it can even be downright dangerous.
Here’s the deal. No matter how much you practice “Safe Following,” you’re still at risk on Twitter if the folks you follow don’t practice “Safe Following,” too.
You see, when you follow someone on Twitter, they can send you private messages (called Direct Messages or “DM’s”). These should be legitimate and intentional, but they’re not always. Notice the DM message pictured at the beginning of this post. It says, “Found a funny picture of you.” That sure sounds legit, no? Well, if you click on it, your computer will have been hacked.
Be Honest and Let People Know
When this happens to folks, it’s embarrassing for them, but most of them belly up to the Twitter bar and admit it. They say they’re sorry, and they warn their followers of the danger. Must be difficult, but it’s also absolutely necessary.
Do a Twitter search for the phrase “Found a funny picture of you” – and you’ll see for yourself that there are thousands of folks who’ve been infected this way.
Our Own Worst Enemy
Notice that the DM message does not say, “Jessica, I found a crazy picture of you at the Wood Whittling Conference.” Nope, it’s a generic message, not a specific one at all – which means it can be automated. That, indeed, is exactly what’s happening. The bad guys are playing to our vanity, and automating it.
You can also do a simple Google search for whatever DM message you’re concerned about. If your message is an automated hacking attempt – other folks will have written about it:
Chilling, isn’t it. And, in this instance, you will find a few articles from a Google search, but considering the extent and danger of these attacks, remarkably few, indeed.
The folks over at NakedSecurity wrote a post (and thanked @TweetSmarter for the alert) called “Found a funny picture of you! Twitter phishing attack.”
Everyone needs to learn to be on their guard against phishing attacks like this. If you did receive a message like the above, please tell your online friend that their account has been compromised, and they should urgently change their passwords.
So, if this happens to you – don’t ignore the folks who tweet to you about it. You are infected. Change your passwords right away. But, more importantly – admit it. Out in the open. Fess up. You’ll save your friends (and you) a lot of pain and heartache that way.
What Can You Do To Stay Safe?
There are three main things you can do to protect yourself against DM spammers:
- Never use an auto-follow program
- Don’t follow people who follow thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of people
- Don’t click on a link in a DM message unless you are sure of it
Learn From the Very Best
Chris Brogan is maybe the best Twitter mind on the planet. He once followed almost everyone – indeed he followed over 100,00o people not that long ago. But, not anymore!
Chris learned that he was being inundated with DM spam. He publicly and honestly had to change his “Follow Philosophy” and he now follows about 400 people. Read what he says in “The Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011” and “Update to the Unfollow Experiment.”
Good for Chris. And, good for you, if you keep following good people and stay away from the dipsy doodles. Yes, go ahead and even keep sending DM’s (and reading your DM’s) when a private message is appropriate. But, good lord, quit following everyone on Twitter.
And, if you’re hacked – admit it, openly, please.