Industry unites against IM spam

Summary:Days after the first arrest for instant-messaging spam, an innovative software product has been launched to help counter the menace of 'spim'

Back in December, instant-messaging (IM) management company IMLogic partnered with security companies McAfee and Sybari (recently acquired by Microsoft) to build IMLogic's Threat Center, which aims to protect users from peer-to-peer and IM threats, such as viruses, worms, spim and malicious code. The centre monitors honeypots (servers that attract security threats) on private IM networks run by AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo to identify the latest problems in the IM world. IMLogic was founded by Francis deSouza, who built Microsoft's first IM server.

And now IMLogic has released version 7.0 of its IM Manager software, which it says is the first instant-messaging management solution to be integrated with the IMLogic Threat Center for automatic real-time threat protection. IM Manager protects users against viruses and spam sent via IM.

According to the company, the launch couldn't have come at a better time. While market research firm Gartner has predicted that by the end of 2005, instant messaging will surpass e-mail as the primary way people interact electronically, the technology may be particularly attractive to the business world. Technology market research firm The Radicati Group has come to the conclusion that "more than 85 percent of all enterprises report using instant messaging for business".

Yet IMLogic says that "most IM usage is still unmonitored and unprotected" and that "Symantec cites in their recent Internet Security Threat Report that IM/P2P applications were used in 7 of the top 10 Internet threats in 2004, with IM security threats growing at 100% every six months."

However the software may not be as attractive to customers who already subscribe to an antivirus package, with both Symantec's Norton Antivirus and McAfee's VirusScan packages featuring the ability to remove viruses from files received via IM. IM Manager does have the ability to interoperate with Symantec's AntiVirus Scan Engine. Additionally, IM users may be able to simply restrict their clients to only receive messages from users who they have previously authorised, stopping rogue users from sending them messages at all.

Although 18-year-old Anthony Greco, who was arrested last Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly sending around 1.5 million instant messages advertising pornography and mortgages may be the first known US citizen to be arrested for sending spim, it's certainly not the first time that the authorities have had their attention on the spim phenomenon.

America Online, Microsoft, Earthlink and Yahoo (which together form the Anti-Spam Alliance in the United States) announced> in October 2004 that they had each filed new lawsuits in the US Federal Court against senders of unwanted computer messages. The announcement was particularly noteworthy as it was the first lawsuit to target, amongst other things, spim.

Renai LeMay reported from Sydney for ZDNet Australia. For more ZDNet Australia stories, click here.

Topics: Apps

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