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February 22, 2010

Be Protected from Twitter-like Phishing Scams with Internet Explorer 8

Over the weekend, a widespread phishing scam hit Twitter where users were lured in through bad links via Direct Messages that ultimately let spammers take over their Twitter account. Once the spammers take over a person’s Twitter account, they send out mass Direct Messages to all of that person’s friends on Twitter. Some of you may have been impacted by this, and I know some of my friends were as I received some of these spam Direct Messages from this phishing scam. If you receive a Direct Message from someone that has the message of “lol, this is you” that offers a link to a website called “bzpharm” – do not click the link. Email the person that sent you that Direct Message and let them know their account has been hacked and that they should change their Twitter password. Here is a good article on what to do if your Twitter account has been hacked or you suspect it may have been hacked.

These types of phishing scams on popular social networking sites like Twitter highlights that the threat landscape continues to evolve – and at a rapid pace. Social networks open up more opportunities to deliver malware and phishing scams to people who it looks like you trust.

These types of phishing attacks also serve as a good reminder that it is extremely important to have a modern browser like Internet Explorer 8 to help protect you from spammers. In the case of this weekend’s phishing scam that hit Twitter, there were two ways Internet Explorer 8 helped alert people to the threat.

When I clicked on the link I received via a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter whose account was hacked that said “lol, this is you” this screen appeared in Internet Explorer 8:


Based on this screen, I totally knew something was very wrong with this link. There are a few things to pay attention to here. First – the real domain is in dark black in the address bar. I may have thought I was being directed to based on the URL in the message, but with this it is clear that the real URL is “” which was *not* where I thought I was going to. This is a great example of a common technique phishers use to trick people with a formula of “” betting that people will see the site they trust first and feel safe. By highlighting the real domain in black in the address bar and making it stand out from the rest of the URL, Internet Explorer 8 makes it clear you’re on a site you may not know.

The other way that Internet Explorer 8 tells you something is wrong is hard to miss – all that red! It’s like Red Alert from the Starship Enterprise. Except that we aren’t dealing with Klingons here. This is the SmartScreen Filter in action as seen with the huge red screen and big red shields with Xs on them. The role of the SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer 8 is to keep a comprehensive list of sites that are suspected of malware or phishing attacks and alert people to the potential danger in a way that’s very clear and easy to understand. As you may recall from a post we did last summer, the SmartScreen Filter is super effective, making Internet Explorer 8 the best browser at protecting people from malware and phishing attacks.

Seeing that some of my friends were hit by this phishing scam on Twitter over the weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to remind folks on how a modern browser like Internet Explorer 8 can help prevent having your Twitter account taken over by spammers.

If you are not using Internet Explorer 8 then upgrade today.