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From Mary Landesman,

Instant Messenger worms are becoming increasingly more sophisticated - and more prevalent. To avoid infection, treat IM as suspiciously as you should be treating email. These tips will help you avoid infection:

Don't be click-happy
Don't click any link received in IM unless you've first confirmed that the sender intended it. This includes links contained in 'away' messages - these 'away' messages are often frequent targets of IM worms.

Beware IMs bearing attachments
Don't open any attachment received unexpectedly - verify that the sender intended it. Make sure you enable file extension viewing so you're not fooled by the infamous double-extension ruse. Before opening any attachment, scan it first using up-to-date antivirus software. (The Kaspersky online scanner is superb for quickly checking single files less than 1MB).

More is *not* merrier
Keep the number of IM clients to a minimum. IM worms target specific clients, though multiple clients might be targeted. For example, the 2002 FloodNet IM worm sent its infectious message to both AIM and MSN Instant Messenger users. Thus, the more IM clients used or supported, the more likely you are to be victimized by an IM worm.

What to do if infection strikes
If you do get hit by an IM worm, remember that all of your contacts are now vulnerable. To avoid sending the infection to others, disconnect from the Internet until you are able to completely remove the infection. If you need Internet access to obtain antivirus software or updates, ask a friend to use their computer and burn the files to CD. If this is not an option, uninstall the IM client until after you've properly cleaned the infection. Of course, always keeping your antivirus software up-to-date will avoid this last minute scramble for protection.


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