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Weight-loss spam spreads

ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and City Press editor Ferial Haffajee were among those whose Twitter accounts were hacked.

Scores of Twitter accounts have been posting tweets promoting weight-loss programmes in a new spam attack that even included ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and City Press editor Ferial Haffajee.

Shivambu's account @floydns sent out numerous spam tweets with suspicious-looking links on Sunday, all promoting weight-loss. The spam also included direct messages with similar content.

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee's account (@ferialhaffajee) was also compromised, as she “tweeted”: “Want to lose any weight? go here: best product for losing weight.”

Haffajee was, however, quick to pick up the spam and tweeted to her followers: “Sorry, I've been hacked. I think you're gorgeous just as you are, of course.”

Weight-loss spam on Twitter is nothing new, however, and there have been numerous similar spam attacks in the past.

Last year, an attack that started on instant messaging services also infected Twitter with a proliferation of messages with links to weight-loss products.

As with the current proliferation of spam, the previous attacks made use of URL shortening services often used on Twitter such as TinyURL in order to mask the spam link.

Change passwords

According to senior technology consultant at Sophos, Graham Cluley, users whose Twitter accounts have been hacked are advised to change their passwords immediately.

“If your account on Twitter has been compromised, make sure you change your password to a non-dictionary word – and be sure to also change any other online accounts where you might be using the same password,” says Cluley.

“Far too many people use the same passwords on multiple sites, which obviously increases your chances of becoming hacked.”

Cluley also advises that users should scan their computers with up-to-date anti-virus software.

Social spam

The Wall Street Journal reports that, as e-mail spam decreases, the social networks are becoming the new target of choice for spammers.

According to Symantec, in November last year, 70.5% of all e-mail was spam. This was down from 92.2% in August 2010. Experts say “social” spam is increasing exponentially, because it allows spammers to spread messages through trusted networks.

Facebook claims that less than 4% of all content shared on its network is spam, and on an average day 0.5% of Facebook users are hit by spam.

According to the available statistics for Twitter, in 2010, 1.5% of tweets were spam – which was an improvement on 2009, when spam was reportedly at 11%.

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