A spammer who claimed he's making $2,000 a day off Pinterest has now said it was a hoax, but there's no denying that the fledgling — and wildly popular — social network is getting loaded with spam.
The virtual bulletin board fast became the favorite of fashionistas spotting the next cool trend (pink-dipped hair is one current fad), school teachers posting lesson plan ideas and home chefs looking for their next edible masterpiece. By the close of this month, Pinterest members will reach 20 million, according to research firm comScore. The site experienced a 50 percent jump in pinners during February.
But with popularity comes spam. If Pinterest develops like Twitter and Facebook , malware is right around the corner.
"Pinterest is ripe for the picking," Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser at Internet security firm Sophos, told TechNewsDaily. "Those guys are totally unprepared to deal with spam and malware. I would not expect this (spam) to go away for quite some time."
Pinterest agrees it will take time, but it's something they've thought about since day one, a Pinterest spokesperson said. The company is working on ways to monitor the problem and eliminate it.
Community members are encouraged to report spam or other objectionable material when they see it, and each report is personally reviewed by a Pinterest employee, she said.
But Wisniewski expects things to get worse before they get better. He said he's seen no evidence of malware yet, but added that it's coming. Each Pinterest photo has a link to its source, and that's where the danger lies. Say a criminal pins a photo of a cute kitten with a link that goes to a malicious page. You repin it. Not only are you at risk if the link leads to malware, but now your followers are too. If your computer isn't protected with anti-virus software, it gets infected, he said.
And it takes a lot of time, expertise and money to build filters into social sites. Facebook now has a filter in place that blocks users from going to known malicious sites, but that took some major resources, he said.
"Strangely, Google+ is virtually spam- and malware-free," he said. Wisniewski said that's because Google's had 10 years of experience battling those problems on its search service. Pinterest has a lot of catching up to do.
In the meantime, Pinterest users can avoid adding to the profits of spammers and malware makers by not clicking on links.
"If you see some cool shoes that you want to buy and the link goes to Amazon, don't click on it," he said. "Instead, go to Amazon and search for the shoes yourself."