As Twitter addicts undoubtedly know, the popular social networking site was down for a few hours on the morning of July 26th. Users logged onto Twitter, eager to see what new updates were coming from their fellow tweeters, only to be greeted with silence.

It had been a while since the last Twitter outage, but outages are certainly not unheard of. Usually, Twitter crashes due to heavy usage. It crashed as the news of Michael Jackson’s death was revealed, for example. However, Thursday’s outage was reportedly the result of something else. Since it occurred on an average Thursday morning, there wasn’t anything particularly newsworthy that everybody had to suddenly tweet about.

So if it wasn’t heavy usage, then what caused Twitter to shut down? Well, Twitter hasn’t made an official announcement as of yet, only to say that the downtime had nothing to do with heavy usage.

At the same time as Twitter’s downtime was being analyzed, it was reported that a new spam attack had been launched against the popular social networking site. Twitter cracked down harshly on spammers a few weeks ago with a security update that made it easier to remove malicious accounts.

It was only a matter of time before hackers found a way around this new security feature. On July 27th, Twitter users began receiving annoying tweets like “It’s you on photo?” followed by a suspicious link. Other messages said “It’s about you?” before sending the link (they couldn’t even find somebody to write in proper English? Come on!). These messages aren’t any different than the last round of spam attacks, but this attack did feature one sneaky addition: the tweets and URLs would include the user’s Twitter username.

So, while some Twitter users might immediately dismiss a random message from an unknown person, even the most tech-savvy individuals have been tricked by this latest attack. After all, if the URL contains the user’s Twitter handle, then it has to be legitimate, right?

After clicking on the link, users are immediately infected with a virus called the Blackhole exploit kit. This Russian-made virus targets operating system vulnerabilities and can be used to do all sorts of damage to one’s computer.

What’s the lesson from all this? Well, Twitter users should download effective anti-spam protection tools like PC Cleaner Pro. If you have already clicked on a suspicious URL, then it’s important to download antivirus software as soon as possible, or else you risk causing permanent damage to your computer.

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