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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 [1] (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 [2].

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 [3] 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 [4].   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.