Expressing oneself in 140 words or less is a popular phenomenon; in fact, Twitter was the fastest growing social network in 2009. A recent report by Barracuda Labs links this increase in public interest to a key rise in celebrity sign-ups at the beginning of last year. Alas, the report also details that as a result of this surge in popularity, Twitter was plagued with a rising number of cyberattacks. Preying upon the vulnerabilities of the microblogging platform, cybercriminals have conducted a host of illegal activities on the site, including identity theft, spam campaigns, and phishing scams.
According to Barracuda Labs’ 2009 Annual Report, Twitter experienced the “Red Carpet Era” in the early part of 2009. During this time period, several celebrities, including Oprah, Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, joined the social networking site. This group of celeb users accounts for 48 out of the top 100 most popular accounts. As a result of the A-list clientele, Twitter’s growth rate increased from 2% in November 2008 to 21% by April 2009.
Cybercriminals were quick to cash in on Twitter’s newfound allure. During the “red carpet” period, attacks on user accounts increased by an astonishing 66%. This statistic confirms a common (and unfortunate) theme in internet security: Cybercrooks exploit hot topics and trends to spread their malware and execute their online scams. As the internet plays an increasingly pivotal role in our daily lives, it’s important to remain vigilant against the dangers that lurk within the World Wide Web.
While Barracuda Labs’ report exposes the rising rate of cybercrime on Twitter, it should be noted that the site is making an effort to combat attacks. Twitter fights phishing scams by monitoring affected accounts and resetting passwords, and the site recently launched a new link-screening system to protect users from harmful websites.