5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know About

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pinterest threats 300   5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know AboutPinterest is one of the fastest-growing social networks of the past year, and has attracted many fans who love to share their world in visual ways. Alas, with its growing popularity, also comes its growing potential as a scam platform, where spammers supposedly make more than $1,000 a day. It’s not only scams that you have to beware of, though.

Like any other growing platform, Pinterest has its threats, security holes, etc. The main difference from Facebook or Twitter seems to be the naivety  of its users. This not not to say that Pinterest is populated only by a certain kind of users who are naĂŻve and don’t really know how to use Pinterest properly; rather, it’s due to the fact that this is a new network, and many of us have yet to encounter any spam or scams on it, a fact which makes us feel safer than on other social networks.

This article was not written to scare you or make you stop using Pinterest – Pinterest is still as safe and fun to use as ever – it’s just here to educate you about the potential threats you may encounter on Pinterest, so you’re able to continue using it and enjoying it just like before.

Scam Pins

While Pinterest seems like a haven from the well-known AMAZING WEIGHT-LOSS DIET and FREE $100 gift card spams, it’s actually not. While these scams are rarer than on other social networks, several have been reported over the past few months. These scam pins take the form of a regular pin, usually promising something people might want, such as a gift card, a diet, etc.

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Just like on Facebook, clicking the pin will redirect you to a third party website, where you will be asked to repin the scam pin, fill in a survey providing personal details, install malware, or all of the above. These pins can contain any image, from a famous company logo to a cute puppy, and read something along the lines of:

WOW! An amazing new weight loss product sponsored by Pinterest! It worked for me and I didnt even change my diet! Here is where I got it from [LINK]

Or

[BRAND] is giving away free giftcards to all Pinterest users! Visit [LINK] to get yours

These pins can also include multiple tags of random users, and you might find yourself tagged in one of these posts without having anything to do with it.

This is not to say that all gift cards on Pinterest are scams, but pay close attention to the URL these pins lead to before clicking on them. If the URL doesn’t seem like anything official to you, don’t click it and don’t repin it. If the URL is shortened, you can use an expander such as Long URL to check it out first.

Collaborator Hijacking

This one can potentially be much more malicious than scam pins. If you’re not a big brand or have many followers, you’re probably safe from this specific type of hijacking, however, you should still be aware of it

As you probably know, Pinterest allows for collaboration on its boards. All you have to do in order to add someone to your board is follow at least one of his boards and then invite him to collaborate on the board from the “Edit board” screen. The person you invite doesn’t have to be following you.

pinterest threat 2   5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know About

When someone accepts this invitation, the new board appears on their Pinterest profile, and is pretty much out of their control at that point. Many people don’t know that when they are offered to collaborate on a board, the board actually appears on their own profile as well.

pinterest threats 1   5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know About

This situation used to be worse, as collaborators could be added without their consent, and has happened on prominent accounts such as Barack Obama’s and Starbucks. When a person adds such an account as a “collaborator”, he can start pinning inappropriate content on the board, which appears on the collaborators profile. While these hijacks occurred adding someone to a board did not require their explicit approval, it’s still something to pay attention to.

To stop it, all you have to do is edit the board and remove yourself from the collaborators list.

Fake Accounts

Fake accounts are a problem on every social network, but like many other threats on Pinterest, we tend to expect them less here. These can be especially dangerous when combined with the previous threat: a well-known name has just invited you to collaborate on a board. You happily accept, only to find out it was a fake account and you’ve compromised your own profile.

pinterest threat   5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know About

Fake profiles can be advertised as such, like this one for Michelle Obama, but can also be completely vague, such as this one for Mark Zuckerberg. Is it real? Might be, but no one really knows for sure, so when you have some dealings with a famous name on Pinterest, take this possibility into account, and don’t assume anything. Pinterest doesn’t have verified accounts.

Another aspect of Fake accounts is accounts used for spam: these fake accounts can be used to spread spam, and also to mass-follow users and thus flood their inbox with notifications. This personally happened to me on Twitter, and seems to be happening on Pinterest as well.

Android App (Or Lack Of One)

Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world right now, and yet, at the time of this writing, there is still no official Pinterest app for Android. I repeat, there is NO official Pinterest app. As you can imagine, the lack of such a desired app is like a broken window calling to a thief, and there have been several fake apps which appeared in Google Play for a little while before their real nature was discovered.

The problem with these fake apps is not only that they’re fake, they can also access your data, pollute your phone with spam, and more. The official app is rumored to be coming out soon, but until then, beware of what you install, and watch for official news of the official app. Up until then, it’s all fakes.

No Personal Boards

This is not really a security threat, but it is something people tend to forget. In general, social networks make us forget ourselves, and more importantly, forget that the Internet is a public place, no matter what privacy we feel we might have.

On Facebook, we can set it up so only friends see our posts (although they can still be shared by them), but on Pinterest there is no such option yet. What you pin is public, and can be repinned by anyone, even people who don’t follow you at all.

pinterest threats 4   5 Pinterest Security Issues You Should Know About

One way to keep some sort of privacy is to hide your Pinterest profile from search engines, but even if you do that, don’t forget the public nature of your pins, and keep private content off Pinterest.

Bottom Line

Pinterest is a wonderful place, and as long as you keep an eye out for these Pinterest security issues, you can and should continue using it safely. Just like with any other social network, don’t forget what Pinterest is – a social network. Treat it as such, and you’re good to go.

Did you encounter any of these threats on Pinterest? Did you witness or hear about a threat we missed? Share it all in the comments.

Image credit: Attention sign image via Shutterstock

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20 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Catherine McCrum

As with all social media, exposure to misuse exists. Be aware, be private about ‘personal information’ and be skeptical. And watch the address line as the article suggests, if things are being redirected or warnings about redirection occurs – don’t force the issue – ask yourself “is what I am wanting to follow more important than my safety and security?” If not then step back and enjoy another pin on the subject. I am on pinterest daily and thoroughly enjoy it but I treat it as social and not as a necessity.

Yaara Lancet

Great suggestions Catherine! As you said, I think the most important thing is to not forget Pinterest is a social network, and just keep aware.

Reply

Ravi Meena

Pinterest’s Development is going Slowwwwww :D

Reply

Kamini Prajapti

This is nice trick for securing your account on Pin interest But i think How to know that the account is fake or not. Many people use account for a Business purpose then what to do ?

Yaara Lancet

Fake accounts are not always easy to spot. That said, I believe fake accounts for very famous people or celebrities don’t last long unless they state they they’re fake somewhere in the profile. If it’s for someone less famous, well, just make sure you don’t click anything. :)

Kamini Prajapati

Thank You Yaara for giving a guidance for Fake Accounts.

Reply

slywlf

Interestingly, although my Pinterest page has languished due to an almost total lack of interest on my part – I only joined out of curiosity to see what the fuss was about – when I read this article and went to it to reset my settings the site was suffering hiccups! The ‘building feed’ kept scrolling then would go ‘bilp’ and start over, and no matter how often I would hit the tab for settings the site just kept building and hiccuping. Maybe all your viewers are trying to ‘fix’ things at once and the site is going into meltdown? ;-) If I ever can get in I am deleting my membership – waste of my time anyway.

slywlf

Finally got in and deleted my account – one less thing to worry about ;-)

Yaara Lancet

That’s pretty amusing. :) Glad you managed to get in, that does sound like a weird bug. It’s better off deleted than forgotten about, probably.

Reply

Ben

General rule to observe in social media, do not put in stuff you don’t want people to know, no matter what they tell you about privacy settings.

Yaara Lancet

I could not agree more!

Reply

Kerry Kisslinger

Great article. Social Media is a great outlet but always comes with some risk.

Yaara Lancet

Thanks!

Reply

Daniel

I think if you represent a company on Pinterest, asking random people to collaborate on your board is not a good idea at all. Maybe you can ask all your staff to do this but not just from anyone.

Yaara Lancet

Yes, it’s probably not a good idea, you never know what will come out of it. Most problems related to this occured when random people asked big companies to collaborate. At first, there was no authorization required for this, and once you invited someone, it simply happened unless they opted out.

A company that keeps an eye on Pinterest could stop it in a sec, but some companies set up Pinterest and forget about it…

It’s much harder to do today, but people should still be aware of what happens when they collaborate on a board.

Reply

Deborah Jordan

Be sure to read the terms of use for this site. Be careful what you pin. You may get into trouble with copyright issues and Pinterest will not back you.

Read this: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/

Yaara Lancet

That’s an interesting read, thanks for posting it.

Reply

vividvilla

well everything has a security hole..I think Pinterest is better than Facebook interns of security and privacy

Reply

fly

I’m having problems similar to the “scam pin” one, except that I never even clicked on the pin. I’m not that ignorant to the internet to do that!
However, I’m still getting these scam pins repinned to my boards whenever i pin a regular pin.

I can only assume that a normal-looking pin had another pin hidden in it somehow.
I really don’t know how else my boards got infected. The source of the spam pins are from users I don’t even know, who I don’t follow and who don’t follow me.

One of my friends thinks it was a FB virus, so that could be a cause as well, though I never click on anything suspicious over there either.

Yaara Lancet

That does sound weird. I’m not sure I understood the problem exactly, but a good place to ask about it would be MakeUseOf Answers. Someone there might know what to do about it!

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