Feeds

Users attacked by mysterious AIM buddies

AOL denies then claims responsibility

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Updated This afternoon, someone was surreptitiously adding unauthorized chat buddies to AOL instant messaging clients running across the Web.

Three separate Register employees noticed the offending buddies, which show up under the "AIM Bots" portion of the AOL buddy list, carrying the names "Prof Gilzot," "sharethisdotcom," "Spleak," and "WSJ." In one instance, they appeared on a third-party Adium client that ties into AOL’s instant messaging network.

This seemed to indicate AOL was responsible for the bizarre occurrence, but when we first contacted the company, it denied any involvement. "These buddies just automatically appeared?" asked AOL's AIM spokesperson Erin Gifford. "My client has not done that."

A screen shot of the mysterious buddy bots popping on AIM clients.

Mysterious AIM buddies

However, a recent blog post indicated that the bots were indeed added by AOL (thanks to reader Rob for the tip), and this afternoon, Gifford called back to claim responsibility. "These new bots are primarily for new users," she says. "But if you still have the AIM bots group on your buddy list...these five new bots will be added to your client."

The AIM Bots group typically includes automated buddies that respond to questions and comments from users. At installation, the latest AIM client installs two such bots, one attached to AOL’s Moviefone site and one attached to the company’s Shopping site. The four new bots tie into other services, including the Wall Street Journal Web site.

Those using Adium, and perhaps other clients, will find the new "buddies" grouped with typical contacts rather than listed as bots. One of our hacks was shocked to find the robot chums, thinking his IM client had been hacked or taken over by another user.

At the very least, AOL should be notifying users that these buddies are being added. And it seems odd that the company hadn't told its PR people about the bots - let alone the press. After all, the Wall Street Journal is a major partner.®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.