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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesinstant messagingantispamsymantecSnapChatKiksecurityBitly

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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

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?