East Tenn. leaders among thousands of Twitter phishing victims

East Tennessee leaders among thousands of Twitter phishing victims

Posted:
Sen. Duncan Massey said she became aware of the problem when friends alerted her. Sen. Duncan Massey said she became aware of the problem when friends alerted her.
When Dr. Jim McIntyre's account was hacked it sent out a tweet Tuesday offering weight loss advice. When Dr. Jim McIntyre's account was hacked it sent out a tweet Tuesday offering weight loss advice.
"This is pretty obvious an attack to try to get your information," explained AJ Wright, an Internet security officer for the University of Tennessee. "This is pretty obvious an attack to try to get your information," explained AJ Wright, an Internet security officer for the University of Tennessee.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Two East Tennessee leaders are among thousands who have fallen victim to fake Twitter messages that allows spammers to gain access to accounts.

State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre both had their Twitter accounts hacked in the last few days.

"This is pretty obvious an attack to try to get your information," explained AJ Wright, an Internet security officer for the University of Tennessee.

A Twitter account is accessed when a user sees a direct message from someone they trust that says something like "Did you see this pic of you? Lol." 

The message contains a link to a phony version of Twitter. When the user mistakenly enters account information, the spammer now has that information to send advertising messages, as well as direct messages to more unsuspecting users.

This method of using links to fake websites for the purpose of gaining account information is known as phishing.

Wright says people don't fall for the scam if they recognize how strange it is to receive a direct message from a state senator or school superintendent.

"In many cases that's the only thing people have to tell that something is inappropriate is when they look at a message like this, it doesn't quite add up," Wright said.

When the message comes from a trusted friend, however, it is easy to fall victim.

Sen. Duncan Massey said she became aware of the problem when friends alerted her.

"I found out around mid-morning and went through and did the measures you're supposed to take care of to get it taken care of," Sen. Duncan Massey said.

When Dr. Jim McIntyre's account was hacked it sent out a tweet Tuesday offering weight loss advice.

"Anybody can be hit by this and often the more public the figure is, the more likely they will be targeted for these attacks," Wright explained.

If one of Dr. McIntyre's 1,000 followers clicked on the link and tried to log in, Wright said their information would be at risk and continue the cycle of spam. The potential for compromising your computer's security is also there.

"For instance, if I was a bad guy I might send you a copy of that link and try to get you to click on it so that I can compromise your computer and use that to attack other computers that are out there," he said.

Both Dr. McIntyre's and Sen. Duncan Massey's accounts have been fixed. 

If you happened to click on one of those links, you should take some precautions and change your Twitter password.

Extra precautions experts suggest include:

  • Making a password at least 10 characters
  • Create a password with upper and lower case characters, numbers and symbols
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts, such as Twitter and your email. That way if one is hacked, all your accounts aren't compromised.
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