"Spim" Taking Over Instant Messaging

Spam sent over instant-messaging networks, also known as "spim," is on the rise, researchers say

Spam sent over instant-messaging networks, also known as "spim," is on the rise, researchers say.

Whether or not the "spim" moniker sticks around, IMs containing spam are likely not going away anytime soon. Spam-loaded IMs will jump from 400 million in 2003 to 1.2 billion in 2004, according to a recent report from Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Radicati Group Inc. The report attributes this increase to the growing adoption of IM and more directories of IM names.

"On regular e-mail, people have already put in anti-spam technologies. Now spammers are moving to the IM space," said Radicati President and CEO Sara Radicati. She says more technology geared toward blocking IM spam is needed.

Although the amount of spam IMs pales in comparison to the billions of spam e-mails sent daily, major ISPs are taking steps to protect IM users.

A Microsoft Corp. spokesman said that "while the vast majority of complaints Microsoft receives [about spam] from its customers regards traditional spam, Microsoft has received complaints about spim as well and is working on a number of initiatives to address the problem." MSN Messenger 6.1 is set by default to block IMs from people who arent on a users contact list. Also, when a user adds a new contact, the person being added is notified and offered to decline or accept the invitation.

Yahoo Inc. spokesman Jessie Anderson said Yahoo Messenger "users have not identified spam as an issue impacting their IM experience." But he added, "Yahoo Messenger has technological methods for detecting and sending patterns and habits associated with spammers." The IM service includes a feature to identify bots, "which are notoriously responsible for spamming users across IM," said Anderson. When a bot is identified, Yahoo disables the bots Yahoo ID. Anderson said Yahoo also frequently upgrades its protocol and ends support for older versions, which he says helps block spammers from hacking into newer protocols to spam users.

America Online Inc.s IM client includes a tool called IM Catcher that quarantines IMs from unknown senders in a scroll box for review, but doesnt filter the content.

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