Twitter users are increasingly faced with a headache that has long plagued its bigger cousin Facebook - rogue applications.
According to Sophos Security, the Follow Finder332 rogue application (but now more widely known as "Unfollowed Me") has duped thousands of Twitter users to believe it will reveal the number of people that have unfollowed them.
And who wouldn't want to know?
The app’s hook comes in the form of an update that reads "X people have unfollowed me. Find out how many have unfollowed you: http://bit.ly/..... #rw2011."
The hashtag is likely a topic that is currently trending - a mischievous move that serves to rapidly increase the update’s audience and thus accelerate its viral spread.
When users click on the shortened link, they get the standard Twitter prompt seeking permission to allow access to a third party app.
This is the tipping point. Pressing the "Allow" button gives the application access to the user’s Twitter profile and can now tweet the same message to every person that follows them.
And so the vicious cycle continues.
But rogue applications are often intended for more than just making fantastic claims. There is usually a fraud, extortion and/or identity theft element to it. "Unfollowed Me" is no exception.
And this happens at the next stage where the application presents a page that creates the impression of being on the verge of revealing the information on the user’s number of "unfollowers."
But what the webpage actually does is present a survey page as a mandatory "last step" that the user must complete before they can finally get the information. The scammers thus rake in cash for each survey completed by Twitter users in this way.
Of course whoever is funding the survey, (if they are paying attention to their numbers), should be able to notice a suspicious spike in the number of surveys completed under one or more accounts - and clamp down the offending accounts. Hopefully, that should kill (at least temporarily) the scam revenue stream.
But the most urgent action now for any Twitter user that has fallen prey to "Unfollowed Me" is to revoke the application’s access to their profile.