Every now and again, I – like many people – receive a direct message on Twitter telling me that somebody is saying something nasty about me; or that I’ve been caught on video doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.
On Facebook, I see status after status telling me that I can now see who has been looking at my profile; or an enticing tease, inviting me to see the full story only after clicking a link.
I’m not being targeted – these are all coming about because people I follow on Twitter or are friends with on Facebook have been gullible enough to follow a link and then authorise an app. The app – malware – then sends out the rogue messages in the hope of signing up even more gullible people.
This is nothing new. Spammers and scammers have been using rouge bait links ever since the Internet began to get people to follow an action.
Some started off as genuine requests for help, but because of the Internet’s longevity, they simply refuse to die – like that of the nine-year-old Craig Shergold who wants to break the record for teh most business cards received, before he dies of cancer.
Email systems are now more robust than they were in the 1990s – but I know of several organisations where genuine attempts to forward that request to everybody in people’s email directory caused whole IT networks to crash.
Sometimes the links are more concerning. A lot of spam emails are distributed by people who do not know their computer is doing it – they clicked on a link, downloaded software or authorised an app and in doing so unwittingly connected their computers to a malicious botnet – a network of computers, remotely controlled, doing the will of their master.
Some malicious links are created simply so that people can see how far a message can go and how long it will last; others are created for quite a malicious purpose.
This is nothing new. Everybody knows this. So why do people keep clicking on links and authorising apps they know nothing about?
I wanted to see just how gullible people are. So this morning I created a ‘safe’ spam message. There was no app attached and no auto-forward.
There was no malware – just a simple message (eventually) warning people not to click dodgy links.
Almost immediately, fellow-journalist George Luke posted a message warning me that my Facebook account may have been hacked.
But how did other people react?
It is now 12 hours since I posted the links and, thanks to the link management service bit.ly, I can tell you that an incredible 30 people have clicked the link in that time.
I’m not going to name-names or shame those who should be shamed! I did say that this wasn’t malicious. But it does concern me that so many people would click a link that appears so obviously to be dodgy.
Please, when using the internet, remember to engage your brain and think before you click.
(Oh, and if you want to see what happened to those who clicked the link, you can do so yourself, by clicking here!)