Fake Twitter accounts lead to scareware sites

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Fake profiles auto-generated.

As Twitter steps up its efforts to launch a new verification tool to reduce the number of fake celebrity accounts on the service, security experts are warning of a new surge in fake accounts being set up by hackers.

Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer of Finnish security firm F-Secure, wrote that the new profiles are being auto-generated, with various user names and locations, and even upload different Twitter wallpaper automatically to make them look authentic.

"All the tweets sent by these accounts are auto-generated, either by picking up keywords from Twitter trends or by repeating real tweets sent by humans," he wrote.

"And where do the links eventually end up? Of course, they lead to fake web sites trying to scare you into purchasing a product you don't need."

The use of so-called scareware is becoming increasingly popular with hackers as they try to capitalise on heightened user awareness of threats. Using Twitter as a channel for links to these sites is a natural move for the perpetrators given the micro-blogging site's six million-plus user base.

Although Twitter has begun scanning its users' feeds for malicious links, the checks are far from comprehensive, and the firm has often been accused of doing too little to maintain the integrity and security of the service.

The firm is currently testing an account verification tool that could put an end to the large number of fake celebrity accounts on the micro-blogging service. The trial could be given extra momentum after it emerged that American baseball coach Tony La Russa is suing Twitter for remarks made on a fake account about the deaths of two of his players.

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