Most of us don’t enter credit card data on a public PC or a public Wi-Fi network.
PC security experts have repeatedly told us that such activities are dangerous and put your identity at risk.
However, most of us don’t think twice about checking Twitter at Starbucks or logging onto a public PC to check our social networks.
Unfortunately, that could be a bad thing: recent PC security research has suggested that the average Twitter account is worth more than the average credit card on the black market.
That information comes from the RAND Corporation and can be read here. In that report, researchers explain that stolen credit card data isn’t worth anywhere near what it used to be worth. At the same time, the value of Twitter accounts and other social media accounts has been steadily rising.
How do hackers steal your Twitter account?
Most Twitter accounts are stolen through the use of third-party apps. Many smartphone apps request access to your Twitter account and then use that access for nefarious purposes.
In other cases, you may have logged into WordPress through an unverified source or over a public Wi-Fi network.
These apps don’t need to know your password to gain access to your account: you’ve already granted these apps the access they need.
How much is a stolen Twitter account worth?
The researchers claim that this price shift is all about economics:
While a freshly-stolen credit card is worth a bundle, the average price of all the old decaying credit cards brings down the average yield.
Twitter accounts, on the other hand, don’t typically go stale as quickly as credit cards. Nobody calls the police to report their Twitter account has been stolen.
Today, the average credit card earns about $0.75 on online black markets while Twitter accounts can be worth anywhere from $16 to $325 depending on the type of account available. The more followers you have in developed countries, the more a Twitter account would be worth.
What can hackers do with a Twitter account?
Why is a Twitter account – something anyone can make for free – worth anything at all?
All the value lies in the brand and the engagement of its followers. After gaining access to a Twitter account, the hacker may send direct message URL links to everybody you mutually follow.
Other opportunities include sending out promotional tweets disguised as legitimate tweets. If you hack a celebrity account and tweet about a weight loss product, then you may be able to make a few sales of that product and earn back the costs of buying the account.
A final opportunity lies in renaming the account – something that Twitter lets you easily do for free. Simply switch the name of the account and you instantly have thousands of legitimate followers. This happens quite frequently – if you have ever noticed a random person show up in your timeline and you don’t remember following that person, then it could be the result of a hacking attempt.
Unfortunately, you can’t sign up for a free Twitter account, pay someone on Fiverr $25 to add a million followers to your account, and then expect to sell your account for thousands of dollars.
If you really want to make money from selling Twitter accounts, you’re going to have to take a shortcut.
That’s not easy to do, which is why many hackers are taking the easy way out and hacking the accounts of people who have spent years building an engaged following.
Anyways, change your passwords.