Pinterest is a bulletin board website that is quickly gaining popularity among fashionistas who are interested in identifying the hottest new trends. It is also gaining traction among teachers who post their ideas for lesson plans as well as diners and chefs who post their recipes of pictures of food items. The site has become so successful and viral that it is close to reaching 20 million users by the end of March. Of course, with rapid popularity comes greater interest from those with less than friendly intentions. Pinterest lets users link images “pinned” to their site to other pages. This can easily lead to spam or, worse, the use of Pinterest as a distribution point for malware. Twitter and Facebook still deal with their unwelcome status as spammer targets. Indeed, one spammer who targets Pinterest claimed that he was raking in $2,000 a day spamming the site. He now claims it is a hoax. What is not a hoax is that Pinterest is quickly getting loaded down with increasing volumes of spam. This is not unexpected since popular sites that allow users to link out of the site will eventually experience a certain percentage of their users sending out spam links and worse.
Accroding to Sophos security adviser Chester Wisniewski, Pinterest is ripe for malware and spam proliferation. The spam problem won’t disappear for a long while. Pinterest is aware of the problem. According to a Pinterest spokesperson, the company has thought about the spam issue since the site began but is working on monitoring and eliminating the problem. Community members can report spam or other improper materials. Reports are manually filtered. Is this enough, though? Manual filtration for a site with 20 million members, a growing percentage of which send out massive loads of spam might easily outgrow a staff-based manual filtration system.
While Wisniewski hasn’t detected malware at Pinterest yet, he is confident that it is coming. Each pinterest photo is linked to its source. That’s the vulnerability of the site. Anyone can post a cute photo that links to an attack site. If you repin it, you open yourself up to direct threat but your followers are exposed to the risk too. If you don’t have antivirus software installed or if your antivirus is compromised or not updated, your computer will get infected. It takes resources and time to install filters. Facebook filters its outbound traffic. However, doing so takes quite a bit of resources.
Google+, on the other hand, is almost free from spam and malware. Wisniewski says that this is due to Google’s lengthy experience battling spam and malware on its search engine. Pinterest needs to catch up quickly or its rapid growth might be compromised by its security and spam vulnerabilities.