Twitter Search beats Google — malware attack averted

As I was driving to work this morning, my iPhone tinged, letting me know I had a new SMS awaiting me. And it tinged a second time as I pulled into my parking place, since I don’t check SMS messages while I’m driving.

It was a Facebook notification from an IBM colleague with a subject of “How did you manage to get on this video?”, sent to me and 19 others, with a link to a page.

I was immediately suspicious, because the note wasn’t in my colleague’s style — but it was rather short, so perhaps that wasn’t valid. I was also suspicious because the names on the note were a rather mixed bag.

But it was vaguely possible that the video had something to do with IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, so I didn’t want to discard the note.

Instead, I did the obvious thing: I Googled for “Facebook” and “get on this video”, looking for reports of malware. But I found nothing. I tried a few other variants, including “Facebook malware” and still found nothing.

So I went to plan B: Twitter. Nothing was obvious on my home page, so I posted a query: “Just got suspicious-looking facebook msg: ‘How did you manage to get on this video?’ with a link to GeoCities. Anyone know if it’s malware?”

While I waited for an answer, I tried Twitter Search, using “Facebook” as my query. Within seconds, I had my answer — yes, it was malware, and apparently virulent stuff.

And when I went back to my Twitter page, I’d gotten three replies from friends telling me the same thing (the first one arrived less than a minute after my tweet).

For timely questions, Twitter is my new go-to tool — sure, Google has depth, but it’s not instantaneous. Twitter gives me three paths to an answer:

  • Stumbling on it in my friends’ tweetstream without ever asking the question
  • Asking the question and hoping a friend answers
  • Using Twitter Search

My search strategy on Twitter is different than what I’d use on Google, though. On Google, it helps to be specific — a search on “Facebook” alone would be pretty useless, hence my attempts to qualify with the hook phrase and the word “malware”.

In contrast, on Twitter, timeliness is your friend — a one-word query (“Facebook”) is just fine, because you’re going to get the current conversation, and the human eye can do a good job of picking out the pay dirt if there is any.

I guess I’ll never find out how I got on that video, though.

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