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MS sues ringtone firm over smut-punting IM spam scam

SPIM phishers feel the wrath of Redmond's lawyers

Top three mobile application threats

Microsoft has set its legal attack dogs on a Hong Kong distributor of mobile ringtones, over allegations that it has flooded Microsoft Live Messenger users with deceptive, fraudulent IM spam messages ultimately aimed at promoting online smut.

Funmobile has allegedly sent thousands of spam messages via instant messages (SPIM) over the last four months or so. The case, which seeks an injunction and damages, was filed in Seattle last month, but the name of the targeted firm was only announced by Microsoft on Thursday. Mobilefunster, Funmobile's US subsidiary, is also named in the same lawsuit.

The alleged scam begins with IM messages, supposedly from a user's friend or acquaintance, inviting prospective marks to check out a link. The linked website asks for a prospective mark's IM login credentials. This marks the approach as a variant on phishing scams more usually associated with tricking the unwary into handing over online banking usernames and passwords.

Those that responded to the IM phish ruse were usually redirected to an adult website. In other cases, a supposed social networking community for Windows Live Messenger users, that in reality had nothing to do with Microsoft's service.

Meanwhile, the contacts of the compromised IM account are allegedly harvested for fresh scam targets.

Microsoft hopes its legal action will discourage similar privacy-invading scams in future. More details on the alleged scam and Microsoft response can be found in a posting on a Microsoft legal issues blog here. The complaint against Funmobile can be found here (PDF). ®

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