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Is spim worse than spam?

No.. but shonky IM throws up new set of issues

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Spim - Instant Message spam - is more than just a nuisance: It's a security risk. The recent "Osama Found" adware campaign and Bizex worm attack show how easily IM technology can be manipulated to fool users into opening malicious code.

Osama Found was particularly sneaky. It took advantage of IM buddy lists to propagate its message. Users clicked on the link they received, believing the messages were sent by trusted contacts.

The Bizex worm delivered instant messages directing recipients to a website that stole financial information gleaned from their computers.

Neither was anywhere near as serious as worms such as Blaster or viruses like MyDoom which travelled by more conventional means. However, spim creates its own set of problems.

Spim immediately interrupts user activity each time it appears on the desktop, making it more disruptive at lower volumes than spam, IM security outfit FaceTime Communications warned this week.

According to messaging analyst firm The Radicati Group, 400 million spim messages were sent last year. Radicati reckons this figure will triple to 1.5bn spim messages by the end of 2004.

The risks posed by poorly-secured instant message communication have spurred a new sub-category of security software. FaceTime's IM Director is designed to control spim through a combination of sophisticated content filtering and a patent-pending challenge-response mechanism. Both features work to intercept spim before it reaches a corporate desktop.

Some vendors such as Blue Coat Systems have taken an appliance approach to controlling IM traffic, while others are marketing secure IM packages. ®

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