Hackers target Indian election tweets with malicious spam

Amid the euphoria surrounding the victory of Narendra Modi's BJP in the Indian elections, hackers are attempting to exploit the buzz on social media through malicious spamming.

It takes the form of an instant response to a tweet on a popular topic – such as Friday's Indian elections. The message, usually from someone with zero followers, will contain a link to follow. The link is often malicious and an attempt by a hacker to access personal information of an unsuspecting user.

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Motivated by the ease of the attack, cybercriminals find social media a good way to target a mass of users, according to experts.

"In the underground economy, the trick is to obtain victims, so they can either intentionally target individuals directly through specialised attacks, or they can do the wholesale attack which is to grab everybody under the sun that they can," Ernest Hilbert, former FBI agent and head of cyber investigations for EMEA at risk consultancy Kroll, told CNBC.

"It is a numbers games. It costs nothing to send it out, but the return is very high from a criminal perspective."

Tarik Kizilkaya | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

A recent study by social media analytics company Sysomos reveals that 24 percent of Tweets are generate by "bots" – software that automatically send out a tweet. Almost all Twitter users' timelines contain tweets generated by these bots.

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'Hostile' attacks

Incidents are not just isolated to the Indian general election. Experts said popular Twitter topics are prime targets for hackers.

From spam links that attempt to drive users to a site for traffic, to tweets aiming to hack a person's computer, the cyberattack method can become increasingly hostile.

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James Chappell, chief technology officer and co-founder of Digital Shadows, a company that monitors attacks on its clients, said there are increasing instances of hackers manipulating a tweet. They may retweet a user, but change the link in the tweet to one that is malicious, Chappell told CNBC.

"Reputation is at stake predominately, but in some cases it's fraud and in some cases it's a route to deliver malicious code," Chappell said in a TV interview.

Twitter recommends reporting and deleting any spam messages.