New Tech Offenses Ending in -ING: Sexting, Swatting, Clickjacking & Twishing

By February 20, 2009

Already in 2009 we’ve had several new gerunds added to the tech lexicon, in the form of new crimes enabled by technology. The following new activities have been making news this year, and none of that news is really any good. Sexting is a big problem in high schools these days. It’s the texting of sexually explicit photos, and it made headlines in January when three Pennsylvania girls who sent pictures of themselves were charged with child pornography. Nearly twenty percent of teens admitted to sexting in a recent survey (pdf). Swatting is the strangest of the crimes, and potentially the most dangerous. Swatting exploits a weakness in the way the 911 emergency service handles VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) to feign emergencies thousands of miles away from the perpetrator’s location. The faux calls are often wild and dramatic descriptions of violent crimes, which result in SWAT teams being called in, hence “swatting.”

Twishing made the rounds in January, becoming the Internet scam du jour simply by following the journalistic law that anything Twitter goes above the fold. It’s like phishing, but for Twitter. Twishing is part of the growing attempts by hackers to exploit the Twitter's vulnerabilities, with lots more sure to follow.

The last few weeks have also seen a lot of Twitter clickjacking, a way of getting users to click on something onscreen, unleashing malicious code. In this case, attacks were first made using the microblogging service’s “Update” button. Last week, the attack hit again, via a button on the application reading “Don’t Click.” Unfortunately, many people did. It's like telling someone not to smell something that stinks.

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