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Archives: April 2009

Breaking News: Just Not From CNN (Also, Why Being Able to Change Your Username On Twitter Is Really, Really Dumb)

This one’s gotta have legs. About an hour ago, Business Insider reported that the CNN Breaking News account, aka @cnnbrk, was not actually run by CNN at all.

The account was actually being updated by James Cox, who up until very recently was the only user that @cnnbrk was following (it’s since added five CNN affiliates to its roster). It all makes sense, now – hindsight is 20/20, after all – but way back on March 14th I actually queried this very thing. CNN has now acquired the @cnnbrk account from Cox for an undisclosed sum.

There are two things very strange about this story. One, of course, that it wasn’t CNN at all, but nobody noticed. More than that, @cnnbrk is the number one most-followed account on the entire Twitter network. It’s almost certainly going to be the first to break the million barrier, and the real CNN are stepping in just as it’s about to cross the finish line. Well played, sir.

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Exclusive: Alan Carr Throws Caution To The Wind, Follows Three People

The Twittersphere was shocked today by reports that Alan Carr had abandoned his zero-follow policy and was now, in fact, following three people.

Alan Carr

Carr, an English stand-up comedian and television personality, was alleged to have said, “I get it! I finally get it!” to family, close friends and other famous people on Twitter.

BBC Radio 1 DJ, Chris Moyles, considered by many experts to be the first person to truly ‘get’ Twitter, was unavailable for comment, as was Lady GaGa, who appears to be the only celebrity left on the network who refuses to follow absolutely anybody.

Analysts expect Carr to be following some fourteen users by the end of the year.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this article, @ladygaga suddenly followed 160+ people. Coincidence? Probably, but you never know. :)

And The First Twitter Account To One Million Followers Is…

… probably going to be CNN (@cnnbrk). And, all being well, it should happen within the next 5-7 days.

What happens next?

Who Will Be The First Twitter Account With One Million Followers?

At the time of writing, @cnnbrk is the number one most-followed account on Twitter with some 933K followers. Readers of this blog may recall my prediction that Britney Spears (@britneyspears) was going to be the first to edge past the one million mark. That looks unlikely now, simply because we’re running out of time, but Britney is right on the 900K mark and definitely closing on @cnnbrk.

In third place is Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) at about 881K. Larry King (@kingsthings – I believe this is genuine) of CNN recently responded to Kutcher’s claims that he would be the first to hit the million mark with this funny video.

It’s a bit of a cheat, of course: both @cnnbrk and @britneyspears have Twitter accounts that are updated by different teams – it would be great if they swapped for 24 hours or so to see if anybody noticed – and so in many respects as Ashton is the only authentic account on there, inasmuch as he updates himself, he probably deserves the plaudits.

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How To Use Twitter To Leverage Your Blog (Part One)

Over the Easter Weekend, Twitter got hit hard, and repeatedly, by self-replicating computer programs known as worms. These hacks, which were allegedly the work of 17-year old ‘Mickeyy Mooney’, began on Saturday, initially promoting the website StalkDaily.com, of which Mr Mooney is the creator.

Twitter users became infected by the StalkDaily worm by visiting the infected profile page of another user. After infection, these users began to auto-tweet recommendations to visit StalkDaily.com on a fairly frequent basis. It rapidly spread – Twitter themselves estimated some 100 accounts were initially compromised, and 10,000 worm-powered tweets were delivered. (My guess is was actually a lot more.)

How To Use Twitter To Leverage Your Blog (Part One)

This article is made up of two parts. In the first, I will provide some detail on the events of the Easter weekend as they transpired from my perspective, and share information on how I reacted to the worms as they broke and delivered a lot of traffic to this blog.

The Beginning

I first noticed the StalkDaily worm when a couple of users I followed began to tweet about the site repeatedly. I thought it strange practice; very out of character. Another user then replied to me directly to ask if I knew why her account was delivering these auto-tweets, and so I investigated the matter further.

Pretty soon, two things happened. One, I realised it was an exploit of some kind, and two, by visiting a few profiles to see what was going on, I was now infected myself. I looked at my own profile, and sure enough I’d sent out four StalkDaily.com auto-tweet recommendations without my knowledge or consent.

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Twitter Worms: How To Tell If You're Infected

A new strain of Mikeyy is running rampant on Twitter today and the stream is focusing on little else. Twitter is working on the issue, and while I’m confident they’ll continue to close these loopholes, I’d expect mutations of these worms to continue to be an issue for the next day or two.

Meantime, a lot of people have asked me: how can I tell if I’m infected? There are several ways. And if you are, don’t panic – it’s a pretty simple cure.

Check Your Profile For Tweets You Did Not Send

Visit your profile page on Twitter (mine is http://twitter.com/sheamus). Scan through your tweet timeline for any tweets you did not send. These will say things like ‘Call Mikeyy’ or ‘Twitter, hire Mikeyy!’.

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HOWTO: Remove Mikeyy From Your Twitter Profile (UPDATED)

Mikeyy is a similar Twitter exploit to yesterday’s StalkDaily. It can be removed pretty easily if you are infected.

(To see if you are infected, check your profile timeline for Mikeyy-approving tweets you didn’t submit yourself. They should be pretty easy to spot.)

How To Remove Mikeyy

  1. Turn off Javascript in your browser. (This will be in settings or options – Google for more detail.)
  2. Close down any exernal Twitter clients (i.e., TweetDeck or Tweetie).
  3. In your Twitter settings page, delete anything suspicious that you did not add yourself. Check everywhere carefully, but it’s usually in the URL or location fields.
  4. Check that your profile design hasn’t been compromised. Some folk are saying their colours have been reset. (You will need to turn Javascript back on to edit your profile design. This is fine at this stage.)
  5. Consider resetting your password on Twitter. There is no evidence that these hacks are malicious enough to break into your Twitter account, but why take the risk? You may also like to clear your cookies and cache (which can be found in your browser’s settings).
  6. Once done, log back out of your account and then back in. If Twitter has locked your account, or does so in the future, you will have to ask for a password reset.

If your Javascript is still disabled in your browser you can now re-enable it.

Mikeyy is not being hidden in shortened URLs, but you may wish to avoid clicking on these from sources you do not absolutely trust in case the URL takes you to an infected profile or other varient of the exploit. Likewise, avoiding visiting user profiles on Twitter or within TweetDeck until Twitter has said with absolute certainty that the threat has passed. Monitor Twitter’s status page for updates.

UPDATE: There have been some reports that infected profiles are visible by rolling your mouse over their username on Twitter.com. If infected, code is sometimes visible after their username in the URL bar. This can help you to avoid infected profiles.

These tips will likely work for any similar exploits on Twitter. You should also take all necessary precautions to protect yourself in the future.

(Lynne Pope has more detail and additional steps you can take at her blog.)

APRIL 12 UPDATE: Twitter has commented on the steps they took and are taking to handle these exploits on their official blog. As of 2130 GMT, and judging by instances on Twitter search, Mikeyy seems to have been defused. Panic and hyperbole remains – help out Twitter by forwarding concerned users to this blog. Thank you. :)

APRIL 13 UPDATE: (1000 GMT) Mikeyy seems to have returned en masse (Twitter search), likely with a new strain. Twitter is once again addressing the situation. Meantime, you can take the steps above to remove Mikeyy if you are infected. Please share this post with all your friends on Twitter. Thank you. :)

APRIL 17 UPDATE: A new strain of Mikeyy returned to Twitter. The cure remains the same. :)

HOWTO: Protect Yourself On Twitter (Lessons Learned From The StalkDaily/Mikeyy Worms)

UPDATE: This article was written prior to the return of the Mikeyy virus, but the advice remains relevant and is good practice.

Thus far, nobody really knows what happened yesterday on Twitter with the StalkDaily explot. There’s been some speculation and the good news was that Twitter moved quickly to eliminate the problem. A 17-year old by the name of Mikeyy Mooney has claimed credit for the script, and looks responsible for the latest one that is doing the rounds (or is being scapegoated/glorified).

Twitter claims that nothing was jeopardised and I’m inclined to believe them. Still, when I recommended folk reset their passwords yesterday I was quite surprised at how many responses I got claiming that this course of action was either unnecessary or mad.

Here’s what I think: even if there was no risk to your password, why take the risk? If StalkDaily or whoever was responsible managed to find a way to add a script to my profile through a loophole on Twitter, what’s to stop them, or that script, doing something else?

Surely a policy of ‘better safe than sorry’ applies in all cases like this? You can always change your password back if you later discover there was no threat to your security. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

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Was StalkDaily A Phishing Operation? Either Way, I'm Locked Out Of Twitter. (UPDATED)

UPDATE: The solution is to send go to Twitter.com and request a password change. I was back in immediately after doing this. :) It can take a while to filter through to external clients (like TweetDeck). Thanks for everybody’s help!

Earlier today Twitter was hit by StalkDaily, a website that infected any Twitter visitor with a hack that made your account auto-tweet recommendations. Click here to read more, and to find out if you were infected.

I posted my suggested cure, which involved changing your password, which I did, to this website at 1.28pm GMT. It got re-tweeted well and generated a bit of interest.

I went to the cinema at 3pm, and when I came out, I could no longer login to my Twitter account.

My profile is still there, so I’ve not been suspended by mistake or anything else, so it’s not that. But when I got home and tried to login again, I finally got to see the problem: I’ve been locked out.

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HOWTO: Remove StalkDaily.com From Your Infected Twitter Profile (UPDATED)

The issue on Twitter has now been rectified but please read and take the steps below if you are infected. For tips on how you can protect yourself in the future from these exploits, go here. For help on removing the Mikeyy worm, go here.

Twitter was hit hard today by StalkDaily, a cross-site scripting (XSS) exploit that will make you auto-tweet recommendations to the site all day long. It did it four times for me before I noticed.

Do Not Visit

You can get infected by visiting StalkDaily.com (don’t do it), as well as by opening the user profiles of other infected accounts within Twitter. Twitter is seriously infected with it. To check if you are, visit http://search.twitter.com and enter your username and the word stalkdaily.com as a search query, i.e.

sheamus stalkdaily.com

This will let you see if you have sent out any tweets without you realising.

Removing StalkDaily From Your Twitter Profile

  1. In your browser, clear your cache and empty all of your cookies. (This can be found in your settings.)
  2. Log out of TweetDeck or any external applications you are using.
  3. Check the URL and location areas of your profile (in Settings/Account on Twitter.com) for evidence of any malicious scripts. It’ll be obvious – something you haven’t added to these areas yourself. If you find anything, remove it. (Note: there was nothing in my profile, but I was still hit. Taking the rest of these steps still fixed the issue.)
  4. On Twitter.com, change your password.
  5. Log back in. It should be okay. If so, log back into TweetDeck et al.
  6. Go back and delete any tweets sent by you recommending StalkDaily. This is important.
  7. Report @stalkdaily in a tweet to Twitter’s @spam account as follows: @spam @stalkdaily

DO NOT visit StalkDaily.com. Do not visit the profiles of users who are clearly infected.

If you later find yourself locked out of your Twitter account, this is a protective measure on Twitter’s part. You will need to reset your password on Twitter to log back in.

Please re-tweet this on Twitter using the button at the beginning of this post.

Thanks!

Twitter: The Best Of The Week (April 4-April 10, 2009)

This is a weekly series that looks at the best Twitter-related stories, news and articles within the Twittersphere over the last seven days.

Flutter: The New Twitter?

An Explosion In Twitter Traffic

Twitter reached an estimated 14 million users in the USA alone this week. ComScore and others had a look at the traffic, and the average Twitter user is older than you might think.

Create Your Own Twitter Giveaway With Twiveaway.com

Giveaways and competitions on blogs are an easy and proven way to raise traffic and subscribers. Does it work on Twitter? I haven’t tested the service myself, but Twiveaway claims to make it easy.

URL Shorteners

Which URL shortening service should you use, and are they useful?

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