Sunday, June 29, 2008

Instant Messaging Dos And Don'ts

Believe it or not, instant messaging services are now just as susceptible to viruses and other scammers.

Since almost anyone and everyone has access to e-mail, viruses now have the ability to infiltrate both your office and home as this popular form of communication is being used by virus writers to spread electronic worms and viruses.

According to a study conducted way back in 2003 by the Internet Security of Semantec, viruses and worms that were spread using instant messaging services have increased to 400%.

The instant messaging worms

Currently, the worms Bizex and Jitux.A are now targeting the instant messaging services of MSN as well as ICQ.

The worm Jitux.A is currently spread by infiltrating the contacts of a particular user’s IM. However, the Bizex worm has an intent that is more malicious, it sends a user a link to a particular web site that have already scanned the computer you are using for any electronic finances or payments.

Since it was discovered, the site has since been shutdown, however it is yet to be known the quantity of data they have already collected, albeit maliciously.

Do not be complacent

Though the major virus threats have already been discovered, this is no time to be complacent. Threats could still continue. As more users know better on how to stop traditional virus attacks, writers of viruses will continually look for other targets.

This is according to CyberScrub president, Bill Adler. And the soft target are currently instant messaging services.

Yet do not panic

Relax, this is still no reason for you to throw away your instant messaging service. Be aware that many viruses in IMs do not automatically propagate.

Usually, clicking a link or downloading an applet is hat would require to download a virus or a worm.

Avoiding these threats require that users constantly be vigilant and always do safe computing.

Do not trust friends

Or at least those messages sent by friends. Unbeknownst to your friend, he could be sending you a link that would lead you to a particular site (under the guise that it was supposed to be a picture of someone you both know) which would get you to download a software. When actually, it is a Trojan horse that would automatically install spyware and adware on your PC and easily distribute itself.

It s during these moments that an anti-virus software would be a big help.

Another thing that should not be trusted are games, one such example is a game called Osama Found that is spread via instant messaging.

It is spread via instant messaging via a link inviting users to download the game wherein the idea is to pretend that one is catching Bin Laden.

Those who clicked downloaded the game and BuddyLinks which were able to grab all the user’s contacts in IM and sent the same message link to everyone.

A lot of software could help

Thankfully, there are security and anti-virus software that could extend the coverage protection of instant messaging services.

Zone Labs, for instance, has released IMSecure. It is a program that makes it possible to encrypt messages as well as block hazardous and dangerous URLs.

The anti-virus software of Norton by Symantec has in its feature the scanning of instant messages as well as McAfee. These software programs are able to remove different viruses from any files that were received through instant messaging.

The good thing about the mentioned software is that it works. Based on the tests conducted by PC World, a lot of anti-virus software have been able to catch known worms and viruses that were sent via instant messaging.

However, it is also a fact that there is really no defined anti-virus software program that could one hundred percent prevent all known attacks from viruses or worms.

Vigilance is always the most excellent defense.

All in all, one way to prevent threats from worms and viruses is by not putting your whole trust to any content that you receive from the internet especially through instant messaging.

Prevention is always better than a pound of cure. Being wary of any files sent through IM is not being paranoid, it is being safe rather than sorry later on.

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