Snapchat, Bitly and Kik Messenger targeted by spammers

Bitly is working with Symantec to clean up malicious links, the result of API keys left visible on the Web

You have to give spammers credit for effort: Symantec found a spam campaign that manages to abuse three Web services at the same time.

It starts on Snapchat, where some users receive an unsolicited photo message asking the person to add a contact as a friend on Kik Messenger, an instant messaging application, wrote Satnam Narang, a security response manager at Symantec, on a company blog.

Snapchat apologized on Monday for spam problems, saying it was the consequence of a fast-growing service. It recommended that users only allowed their approved friends to send them photos rather than receive unsolicited ones.

Narang wrote that if the spammy contact is added on Kik, a spam "bot," or a program designed to automatically chat with contacts, would send some canned text and a link shortened by Bitly. The links lead to sites trying to sign up users for adult webcam entertainment.

Part of the spammy Bitly links may look familiar.

"Spammers have found a way to create their own links using branded short domains in order to entice users into a false sense of security," he wrote.

Symantec found Bitly links generated using customs domains owned by brands and companies such as USA Today, National Geographic, the New York Post, Red Hat and MIT News, among others.

Custom domains can be registered with Bitly, which then appends a unique identifier on the end of the shortened URL that leads a person to its full content. The spammers abused the custom domains through an API (application programming interface) configuration problem, which left the API key visible.

"Bitly has confirmed that some spammers obtained Bitly API keys belonging to various brands," Narang wrote.

Bitly wrote in an email to IDG News Service that it was working with Symantec on the problem and pointed to its API best practices guide. Because of similar problems, the AddThis social bookmarking service also stopped requiring its users to reveal their API key in plain text as part of its code embedded in a website.

"Public exposure of API keys gives anybody the ability to compromise accounts and, in this case, create short URLs using other people's domains," Narang wrote.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityinstant messagingsymantecantispamInternet-based applications and servicesBitlySnapChatKik

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?