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Risk

4/13/2009
02:43 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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Twitter Worm Strikes; Teen Worm Creator Feels Pretty Bad About It

This weekend's Twitter worm(s) problem is turning into this week's Twitter worm(s) problem, and is a reminder that as social networks come of age so do social net risks. Good thing the kid who created the worms feels bad about it.

This weekend's Twitter worm(s) problem is turning into this week's Twitter worm(s) problem, and is a reminder that as social networks come of age so do social net risks. Good thing the kid who created the worms feels bad about it.As worm outbreaks go, the worms that struck Twitter over the Easter weekend were, if not exactly small potatoes, more of an annoyance than a massive threat to the World As We Know It.

190 accounts were compromised; 10,000 or so spam tweets were sent during the initial wave of worms. Some researchers see the attacks continuing.

A pretty good description of the problem and Twitter's response to it can be found at this Twitter blog.

Which doesn't mean the problem, which launched wasn't serious, as and absolutely doesn't mean that worms and other attacks strategies coming at us via social networks aren't matters for concern.

The weekend worms had the advantage (if that's the right word) of being the product of good (if that's the right word) old-fashioned geek know-how: 17-year old Michael Mooney (interviewed here) created the worms "Out of boredom."

Mooney is correct, if self-serving (depending on your perspective), when he states that "its not me that left the vulnerability [which his worms exploited" out in the open."

Which is on Twitter's mind (if not so off-handedly: Mooney's accounts have been canceled) as well: "We are still reviewing all the details, cleaning up, and we remain on alert. Every time we battle an attack, we evaluate our web coding practices to learn how we can do better to prevent them in the future."

A good thing, too, but also a reminder that the doors that are being closed after the worms get in are doors in one of the most popular, pervasive and explosively growing services on the Web.

Twitter, indeed, is growing so fast that the company has yet to deploy a formal plan for monetizing itself.

You can bet the crooks are looking, and hard, for ways to monetize it.

Social networks, by their very nature-- "Look what interests me; bet you'd be interested too; and even if you're not interested, look what interests me!" -- are designed for viral information (in the loosest, often sense of that word) spread.

Which means that they're ideal for malware spread as well.

And you can bet that there are plenty of other code-writers out there who are looking just as hard for vulnerabilities, and who are doing so for reasons other than boredom. And when they find ways to tag Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever social net and its users with a fast-moving infection they, unlike Mooney, won't "feel pretty bad about it."

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