Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

Summary: If you've used Twitter, you know about URL-shortening services such as tinyurl and bit.ly.

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If you've used Twitter, you know about URL-shortening services such as tinyurl and bit.ly. With only 140 characters at their disposal, users rely on these shortcut links to mask and share their favorite web pages, such as news stories.

Now, it appears that spammers are getting in on the shortcut URL game.

Message Labs reports that the presence of short URLs in spam has skyrocketed in the last few days and now appears in more than 2 percent of all spam messages, according to a post on the New York Times' Bits blog.

Also see: CNET: URL shortening is hot--but look before you leap

A spam email with a bit.ly url appeared in my inbox just the other day. I have to admit that I paused for a minute when I saw it, recognizing the link but not the sender or the subject line. And the message inside was generic, like it was from a long-lost friend - you know, like someone who might have found me on the web somewhere.

It's easy to use caution in an email message and simply click delete but applying that type of scrutiny to a shortcut link sort of takes the oomph out of Twitter. After all, I'm happy following people that I don't actually know - people who have been recommended by friends and friends of friends and have posted shortcut links to some interesting posts. I click on their links regularly without giving it a second thought.

So where does that leave us? If spam in shortcut URLs becomes a bigger problem, then the power of Twitter diminishes significantly. Clicking on links posted by strangers becomes a risk. And I can't say that I'm willing to take that sort of risk.

What do you think about this? Share your thoughts in the talkbacks.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Security

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11 comments
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  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

    wow... ur quite late on this one... theyve been using it since its conception... crackers(black hat hackers) that is.
    m30w
  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

    Yea, clicking a short URL is basically like walking through a minefield.
    Andrew Mager
  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?


    Spammers using URL abbreviation services like tinyurl is not a new tactic. They have been using them since 2005. Services like Twitter have certainly expanded the use of legitimate uses of URL abbreviators, but spammers have been using them to hide the actual target of links in spam messages for some time. Now they are also being used to direct users to drive-by malware sites.

    --Sam Masiello
    smasiello@...
  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

    shortcut url providers have some responsibility to check the shortcut, if they don't they will be out. you should be able to put some trust in bit.ly.
    MrRickle
  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

    Ahhhh, no. Then they'll get sued for those they miss, so better not to interfere on their own. Remove reported and confirmed malicious links, but no policing of the links internally.
    Darr247
  • There are ways to force a preview

    I'm sure you know you can visit preview.tinyurl.com/..... In fact, you can even select an option which sets a cookie on your browser which will always give you the preview link instead of forwarding you directly.

    I'm not as familiar with bit.ly, but I imagine a similar option exists.

    Twitter should probably allow for longer URLs or provide its own shortening service.

    TRiG.
    Timothy (TRiG)
  • Sanction Scammers, Kill them ALL!

    Sanction scammers
    Kill them all
    Slowly torture
    on a wall
    Hanging high
    for all to see
    the brutal end
    Their screaming pleas
    for mercy
    They deserve it not
    Let their corpses
    turn to rot
    So other would be
    thieves will wonder
    Will I be next
    torn asunder
    disemboweled for my plunder
    Then we?ll see
    these crimes will cease
    the web again
    a place of peace.
    John Westra
  • True solution? White list!

    Use a proxy or web filter that only allows white listed sites to be accessed. Use category white listing for a good set of sites that you want to visit, and doesn't include any sites you don't want to visit. White listing will save your butt.
    Narg
  • And it's easy to hack twitter

    So even if you trust the source, someone else mihgt compromise it.

    Facebook is so popular (IMHO) precisely because it's so private and free of spam. Twitter is like traveling back in time to a combination of Myspace's worst days and the early days of web-based email.

    Someone's gonna crush Twitter for these reasons, IMO.
    erikswanson
  • Preview a TinyURL

    There is an easy way to set it up so you get a preview of the actual address that a TinyURL link is pointing to.

    Go to the TinyURL site and click on 'Preview Feature' to set that up.
    http://tinyurl.com/preview.php
    CaptBilly1Eye
  • RE: Spammers like shortcut URLs, too. Should Twitter be worried?

    addour,good post!
    homeioy61-24353625465230107210223572813139