Damon Cortesi's blog

Musings of an entrepreneur.

Twitter Spam Evolution

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Every once in a while I revisit Twitter Spam. It’s always interesting to see the evolution of spammers as it’s happened on other social networks before and their behavior on Twitter is similar.

Essentially, they get smarter. It’s as simple as that. Early spammers on Twitter would simply follow lots of people and send obviously spammy messages. Twitter put a cap on that with their follow limits. Spammers of course then gamed the system by figuring out who had auto-follow turned on and following those folks as well as following regular people and unfollowing when not mutual. Twitter is since in the process of disabling auto-follow, though other services exist and will pop up.

The latest iteration, which I’d seen evidence of before but only from the initial prep stage, is the “almost real” accounts. Let’s take a look at @james_mahoney. [caption id=”attachment_1513” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Spam(?) Account on Twitter”]Spam(?) Account on Twitter[/caption]

Now this looks like a fairly normal account. Tweeting about basketball, college. But let’s take a closer look at a couple of those messages. Specifically because they might look a bit familiar…

Yup, that’s right. Those tweets are simply duplicates of tweets made earlier by other, real people. This account is simply duplicating them to appear legitimate. Now those links for the Kindle are starting to look a little suspicious, too. If we take a closer look, we notice that it’s a legitimate link to Amazon, but with the spammer’s associate code in the URL.

You can see that his account also looks real enough that people even engage in conversation.

So the associate code means this spammer will get a few bucks if somebody actually buys the Kindle. How many times does @James_Mahoney send out these tweets? About 200 out of 800 - just see for yourself. Even a few hits makes it worth it if this is automated in any fashion.

A final note - want to find some other accounts in the initial phase of this scam? Just click through some of the recent follower icons on @James_Mahoney’s page, particularly the ones with the default avatar - you’ll notice they all have an eerily similar set of first messages. Welcome to Social Network Spam.

Thanks to Mike Dahn for the heads up on Mr. Spammy Spammer.

(p.s. Don’t forget to click my affiliate link to the right. ;))