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spim (instant messaging spam)

Spim is spam delivered through instant messaging (IM) instead of through e-mail messaging. Although less ubiquitous than its e-mail counterpart, spim is reaching more users all the time. According to a report from Ferris Research, 500 million IM spam were sent in 2003, twice the level of 2002. As it becomes more prevalent, spim could impact the business community similarly to the way that spam does now, by consuming corporate resources and creating security problems.

In some ways, IM is an especially useful channel for spammers. For one thing, the immediacy of IM makes users more likely to reflexively click links. Furthermore, because it bypasses anti-virus software and firewalls, IM is an easy means of passing on not only commercial messages, but also viruses and other malware. Meanwhile, government, corporations, and ISPs are united in the fight against spam, with proposed solutions such as e-mail postage and legislation such as the Can-Spam Act of 2003. As anti-spam measures for e-mail are more widely implemented and become more effective, frustrated spammers may increasingly turn to spim.

One way to protect yourself from spim is to block messages from anyone not your buddy list, or to allow messages only from those on a permission list. Here's how to do that in some of the popular IM programs:

  • In the AOL IM program window, select "preferences" on the bottom left hand side. In the Preferences window, elect the "Privacy" category from the list on the left-hand side, and then choose from the options available, such as "Allow only users on my Buddy list."
  • In the Yahoo IM window, under "Login," select "Privacy Settings," and then select "Ignore anyone who is not on my Friends list."
  • In the MSN Messenger window, under "Tools," select "Options," and then click the "Privacy" tab. Click the box by "Only people on my Allow List can see my status and send me messages."
This was last updated in September 2005

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