Twitter Plagued with Annoying Worm – Do Not Use Internet Explorer

For the past two weeks Twitter has been plagued with a worm called “Mikeyy.”  You can get infected with the Mikeyy worm simply by visiting an infected profile page on Twitter, or clicking on a link that takes you to an infected page.

Once infected, it takes over your Twitter account and spews out unauthorized tweets. By all reports the worm does not take private information nor does it do any damage to your computer.  It’s annoying, but not malicious.

I know – because this past Friday my account become infected with the Mikeyy worm for 27 minutes.  During that time, over 75 unauthorized tweets were made on my account.  A lot of them were made in a snarky tone, and were … let’s say … inappropriate.  Nothing too bad … just slang.

Anybody who knows my communication style could tell immediately that it was not me making those tweets.

Twitter - worm affecting accounts

Here’s what happened.  I was at Biz Camp Akron, where I had given the keynote presentation.  Later in the afternoon, I had been updating my Twitter account and a small ad hoc group gathered round, so I started showing them what Twitter was all about.  I jumped around to quite a few profile pages.  I was using Internet Explorer.

Not long afterward, upon leaving shortly after 3:30pm, I got a call from Tim Grahl (our Web designer here at Small Business Trends) who reported “your Twitter feed has been hijacked.”  Tim notified Twitter Support for me.

On route back to my office I got about 10 phone calls and messages from friends, colleagues and people I’ve never even met who were kind enough to look up my phone number and call me.  All were trying to alert me to the issue with my Twitter account. Some said they had notified Twitter Support, also.

By the time I reached my office and was able to survey the carnage, the unauthorized tweeting had stopped, shut down by Twitter I presume.

When I checked my email I saw that dozens of other people had emailed me to say, “your Twitter account is wigging out” or “I think your Twitter feed has been compromised.”  Most had emailed me within the first 5 – 15 minutes of the problem.  Alastair McDermott even emailed instructions for how to fix the problem within 7 minutes of it starting, and wrote up this blog post for how to fix the Mikeyy worm.

My Twitter feed automatically updates my Facebook page.  Consequently, the unauthorized tweets were appearing over there, too.  Two kind people took it upon themselves to add comments under the posts on FaceBook, warning people not to click on the infected links.  That was going above and beyond …  and I was very grateful.

Twitter Support cleansed my profile and froze the account for a short while.  Eventually I was able to do a password reset, log back in, delete the unauthorized messages, and put up an explanation for what had occurred.

In total the event lasted 27 minutes.  But even during that relatively short time there were so many unauthorized tweets, coming every few seconds, that I am sure it was annoying to those following my Twitter feed, as it seemed to go on forever.

I got several messages from people who confessed having been victimized by the Mikeyy worm the week before or earlier that day, and offering to help.

Most followers took it in stride (thank you so much — you are wonderful!).  A number of people laughed it off, like Paul Woodhouse, the Tinbasher, who said he found the whole thing rather amusing.

As far as I know, nothing malicious happened.  It was just annoying as heck.  It wasted a lot of time of many people … including me.  But I am very very grateful for how the community jumped in to help.

Supposedly the worm only affects those using Internet Explorer (which I had been using shortly before the hijacking).  So one piece of advice I have for you is to NOT use Internet Explorer when visiting the Twitter site.  Better yet, try a desktop service like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop, and avoid visiting the Twitter site altogether, until we can be sure Twitter has this problem licked once and for all.

This is at least the third outbreak of the Mikeyy worm or some variant over the past two weeks.  It’s not clear if the latest was a copycat, or created by the original “Mikeyy” who is reported to be a 17-year old from Brooklyn who says he created the worm out of boredom.

Go here for more on what to do to protect against the Twitter worm.   And be careful on Twitter for now.  It is unclear how long it will be before Twitter gets this situation under control — once and for all.

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

23 Reactions
  1. Kathy Breitenbucher

    I love Tweetdeck and using a tool like that avoids all these kinds of problems. It allows you to post, manage tweets and group people you are following so it is easier to see. Means you have to take your laptop with you, but avoids problems!

  2. Wow, that’s interesting. I had no idea that there was even a worm making the rounds on Twitter. Thank you for alerting us to keep our eyes open. I very rarely visit the actual Twitter site, I usually use Twitterfox to do all my tweeting. I’ll be passing this article on to others. Thanks!

  3. Wow. I looked at Tweetdeck after your Intuit Townhall event and it is looking better every second! At least, I think it was Tweetdeck where you had listed the various tweets from participants and speakers.

    I wonder if using Firefox would help?

  4. So is that a “tworm”? 🙂

  5. Hi Kathy, yes TweetDeck certainly is convenient.

    Although … I miss not being able to experience the whole Twitter environment in native habitat — there’s something about visiting the Twitter site that makes me feel much more a part of things.

    Too bad some have to spoil it for others.


  6. Hi jhollabaugh, yes, a new term in Twitterology — a “tworm”!


  7. I’m sorry you had to go through all this hassle. I’m afraid though as Twitter grows in popularity that worms like this will only happen more often. I had no idea that IE was more susceptible than other browsers. I’m gonna look into Tweetdeck.

  8. Wow, this is good to know. I’ve been reading up on it lately and it does sound like quite the “bugger.”

    Tweetdeck sounds interesting. I’ve been hearing and reading alot about it but haven’t taken the dive yet. I may have to now.

    Why do people have to ruin everything for others??? Gees.

  9. Thanks for the heads up. How aggravating is that! I do use both IE and Firefox so I’ll stick with Firefox and get into tweetdeck tonight!

  10. Thanks for alerting us Anita. I’m also fond of visiting the actual site of Twitter to tweet, follow friends and other activities. But I think, I should li-low for now. I am already using Tweetdeck. I hope Twitter will announce ASAP a stable status of “Tworm Free.”

  11. Since plenty of people still use the web to check their Twitter, they need to put a stop to this worm. Even though it’s not malicious, and thus seemingly a small problem, sometimes the smallest things have the biggest impact. Well, at least that’s the subtitle of a book I just read about, “The Power of Small”. I definitely recommend TweetDeck or Twirl. Besides avoiding worms like this, it also saves you the hassle of going to a web page and hitting refresh every time you want to see if someone has sent a new Twitter.

  12. I haven’t decided if I should start using TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop. I am leaning to start out with Seesmic. Please send your suggestion to me on Twitter! 😉 Click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says.

    I wonder what will happen with the “bored” teenager?

  13. This tool for Firefox is how I usually post to Twitter, and which then heads to my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. It is called Twitterbar and is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to write your 140 characters in the address bar and hit send. Goes to Twitter without accessing the website. Search for it here:

    Also, you could do the old-fashioned thing and send your Tweets in via mobile phone SMS/texts.

    None of these help you read the tweets from your community, but it gives you a way to post without worry.

  14. Just read this post at BizSugar and I have to disagree. Adam writes that Twitter is useless for small biz.

    I commented that I think you have to look at new uses of the platform by small business owners — is an awesome example of ways to stay in touch with your customer. You don’t have to have this nifty device to do that, either.

  15. Twitter sucks for small business? @TJ, that was alarming!

    @Martin, I love Tweetdeck. Light application, easy to use and very manageable. How about the Seesmic Desktop? What do you think about it Martin?

  16. TJ: Funny thing with the bakery! I had to tweet about it! 🙂

    Fresh tweets straight from the oven @ Hat tip to: @TJMcCue #GoodThing together with a cup of #tea.

  17. Mary,

    I haven’t tested Seesmic yet. I think I will install it this week.

  18. Oh I See. That’s fine Martin! I’m wondering if Twitter is already “tworm-free”. I haven’t add Twitter friends lately in fear my account might get infected. 🙁

  19. 300 free Twitter buttons post at SMBCEO. Useful Twitter links and comments here are extending past the original post, which is terrific. But some folks might miss them. Perhaps we need another post to capture all the good link and resources being mentioned.

  20. @Mary Grace — not my title, but another blogger’s. I don’t think Twitter is bad for business: Quite the contrary. It is awesome for biz. You just have to use your head and the service properly to get results.