Ping....It's Spim Chatting

As the term indicates, spim is a type of spam distributed via IM (instant message) instead of traditional email.  The trend really began to pick up in 2003 when more than 500 million unsolicited advertisements were sent through instant messaging systems.  As this technique becomes more relevant in the world of online business, spim has wasted precious resources and created additional security issues. 

Why your IM is so attractive to spammers

Spammers have found that instant messaging is a very rewarding platform for their efforts.  The immediate nature of communication makes recipients more apt to access the links provided merely on human instinct.  Aside from that, many anti-spam filters and firewalls are unable to detect spim, enabling its senders to bypass a user's security and not only distribute their advertisements, but viruses and other infections as well. 

The growing level of spim has led individual users, internet service providers, and the government to unite in the never ending battle against spam.  As more regulations are set in place to reduce the effectiveness of email spam, it is believed that more frustrated senders will inevitably turn to instant messaging as their vehicle of distribution. 

Spammers have targeted some of the most popular instant messaging systems including Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, MSN Messenger, Tencent and ICQ.  These programs draw so much attention because they offer an extensive directory of users with details on their location, age and gender.  Spammers can easily access this sensitive data, log into the instant messaging system, and initiate their onslaught of unsolicited ads.  Spim has raised so much concern that Microsoft has stated that the next release of their Windows Live Messenger application would support new features to address IM spam. 

Protection Against Spim

While spim is quickly becoming a huge problem, you can protect yourself by blocking any incoming messages that originate from users not found on your buddy list.  You can also configure your IM to only accept messages from those on a special permission list.  Here are a few tips to help you make the adjustments in some of the most widely used instant messaging applications:

  • AOL Instant Messaging - select the "preferences" tab at the bottom left of the program window.  From that menu, select "Privacy" from the list of categories on the left side.  Navigate through the available options and enable the function that reads, "Allow only users on my Buddy List."
  • Yahoo Instant Messaging - beneath the "Login" screen, select the "Privacy Settings" tab.  Next, select "Ignore any user not on my Friend list."
  • MSN Messenger - from within the "Tools" menu, select "Options."  Then choose the "Privacy" tab in the following menu.  Now check the box that reads, "Only people on my Allow List can see my online status and send messages." 

Here are a few more measures that can be taken in the fight against spim:

•        - XP users should always upgrade their operating systems with the latest service pack.

•         -Vulnerable systems should always upgrade to the most recent operating system software, whether the environment is Windows-based or an alternative.

•         -Implement firewall applications to block out packets form intruders.

•         -Cancel your IM service or simply delete its execution file from your computer.

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You can protect your computer from viruses without expensive software. Instead, follow these simple tips:

Stay up-to-date on all system updates.

Don't download any email attachments you weren't expecting.

Avoid freeware and peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Use alternative web browsers and email software.