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Instant-messaging virus costs a man his job

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You should take note of the following story. Can you imagine what would happen if all of your instant messages were sent to everyone on your buddy list? At the minimum complete embarrassment, at the maximum “You are fired“.

Source ZDNet UK June 30, 2004, 09:05 BST

A virus can transmit previous IM conversations to a user’s buddy list without his or her consent – and with disastrous consequences

Virus attacks are not yet frequent on instant-messaging applications, but the latest threat is likely to send a shiver down the spine of all IM users. A businessman whose computer had been infected by a virus found that his entire buddy list had been sent a record of all his IM conversations, said Derek O’Carroll, managing director of IM software vendor IMLogic on Tuesday.

O’Carroll was speaking at a panel discussion on the war against spam at a security event aligned with the Microsoft TechEd conference in Amsterdam. He said the businessman, a vice president at a US-based company, discovered that IM conversations stored by the application had been sent to colleagues on his buddy list, which included partners at the company.

He was fired because of negative comments he’d made about his colleagues in what he thought were private IM conversations. His computer had been infected with the virus after clicking on a URL received in an IM application, according to O’Carroll.

O’Carroll pointed out that various IM applications can keep a record of conversations although they can be set up so that they do not do this. He advised that companies implement content checking with instant messaging to prevent employees from making defamatory comments and to stop critical information from leaving the company.

The Radicati Group recently predicted that instant-messaging spam, dubbed ‘spim’, will increase dramatically during the next year. This increase in spim could result in an increased risk of security breaches such as these, because hyperlinks embedded in spim can provide a doorway through which viruses enter a corporate network.

About the Author

Robert T DeMarco is CEO of IP Group in Herndon VA. IP Group offers software communication tools for use on the Internet. These include: PowerTools, Watch Right, Always on Time and IM Frame. Mr. DeMarco is the author/editor of several Weblogs and is also a member of the High Tech Crimes Industry Association (HTCIA). Mr. DeMarco spent 20 years on Wall Street during his second career.

Robert T DeMarcoIP Group Inc.
mailto: rtdemarco@aol.com

You can read about Crimes Against Children on the Internet at Watch Right Internet Crimes Against Children Weblog
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About Bob DeMarco

  • Antfreeze

    I’m no computer expert, (although I play one on tv) but can’t all of these virus/worms/adware etc. be stopped by simply not allowing anything to write to my harddrive or memory without my permission?

  • Chris Kent

    I am still not entirely convinced why IM is necessary at work. Is it REALLY an improvement over e-mail? Hell no it’s not! Just another way to get into trouble.

    It’s like fucking text messaging…..I suppose it saves minutes, but it’s a pretty stupid way to communicate.

  • Hmm. The company I work for has got Instant Messaging, which can be useful – we’re spread over a few locations and so it gives the ability to do the equivalent of leaning across a desk and saying “Hey, do you have the phone number for XXX” – the sort of stuff that create email, address, write message, send, wait for it to arrive, be open, read, replied to doesn’t work well for; plus, from a company point of view, it’s much, much less information zipping about – compare the size of a standard HTML email and a line of a text. So, yes, it can have improvements over email…

  • Chris Kent

    It’s a good point. But most of the people I know with IM at work use it for everything but work. They talk all day with friends outside of the company, and it appears they are actually working…..I don’t see how IM is any better than dialing in co-worker’s extension on the phone…..IM simply decreases human contact in the workplace. I don’t think it’s very productive.