Gleeonsky – first UK Promoted Tweets exploited by spammers

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

GleeSurprise surprise. Within minutes of Twitter announcing that UK brands can now target British Twitter users with promoted tweets and trends, spammers are also jumping on the bandwagon.

Twitter UK says that Sky is using its entire suite of promoted products to advertise that the TV show “Glee” returns to British TV screens tonight.

To increase awareness, Sky is using the twitter account @gleeonsky and paying for the hashtag #gleeonsky to be promoted to British Twitter users.

Of course, they’re not the only ones taking advantage of the hashtag. Spammers are using it too.

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Gleeonsky hashtag

I suspect that when Sky paid for the #gleeonsky hashtag to be promoted on Twitter, this isn’t the kind of response they were hoping for. They wanted people to watch the TV show on Sky tonight, not to go hunting for hot photographs of Natalie Portman, Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez and others..

These aren’t mischievous Twitter users, these are spam accounts set up specifically for the purposes of blurting out a message using a popular hashtag. In this case, #gleeonsky.

The spammers don’t care that their accounts get reported and shut down by Twitter security, because they just create another one. And remember, they don’t have to do this by hand – the whole process can be automated.

The danger is that unsuspecting users curious about a hot trend like the promoted #gleeonsky might click on one of the dodgy links above.

By the way, if they do click, Twitter users may find that they are taken to a website like this:

Unappealing website

Of course, the spammers can choose to redirect you to any webpage they like once you have clicked on the link. It could be a phishing site designed to steal your Twitter credentials, it could be a fake pharmacy, it could be a porn site or it could be a website harbouring malware.

Exploiting trending Twitter hashtags is nothing new. But as the company’s business model relies more and more heavily upon convincing companies to pay big money to promote their brands in this way, there will be more pressure on Twitter to police abuse on their site and clean-up offending tweets.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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