Another Ugly Head Rears

We've all been talking about CAN-SPAM on the Spin board, at cocktail parties, and at industry events. Just when you think it can't get any worse... it seems our loathed spam has a nastier offspring called spim.

You've mostly likely felt intruded and annoyed by it by now. Spim has been defined as, "unsolicited commercial messages sent via an instant messaging system."

I don't know about you, but Instant Messenger clients are my favorite among all that's cool on the Web. My email addresses have changed and my jobs have changed but my IM screen name has remained the same year-after-year. I use it personally and I use it for work.

I more or less view IM in a similar way to that of my mobile number. For instance, just about anyone can get my email address-and it's fairly easy to get my office number--however, I am cautious in regard to giving out my screen name and my mobile number. For those who know one or both, they know it's the easiest way to get a hold of me.



That's why this is so bloody irritating to me. I mean let's face it, we all know someone that we wish we hadn't given our screen name to. You know the type: they are the people who chime in the second you've just gotten online. They usually have nothing to say-LOL, which is why the block command is available to users.

However, these lousy spimmers get through no matter Spimming is projected to triple this year to 1.2 billion, according to a new report from the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm in Palo Alto, Calif. The worst part is 70% are said to be porn-related.

Sure, this represents about 35% of spam, but it IS on the rise. According to an interview in, IDC analyst Robert Mahowald said, "The reason spim has taken off is very simple - the money and the marketers go where people are... IM is just another channel, but now people are starting to use it more often."

Here's how it works: Spimmers are very similar to spammers. They create bots that scour the 'Net in chat rooms and across websites in search of IM user names. They can also systematically guess them by using random number generators. Once they've got 'em, they bombard users with unsolicited messages. Spimmers often get users to click on a link or download something through IM. They have written codes to spread viruses like wildfire online. Was your IM shut down recently at work (for those of you who have it)? It was most likely due to a nasty virus.

Although spimming on the rise, analysts predict it won't reach the level of spam. This is most likely due to the fact that individual servers send IMs, whereas email is sent through multiple servers. Spim is easier to find and eradicate.

So what do we do about this? The first step is to be aware that it's out there. If you are a parent, tell your kids not to click on any links or give away their buddy lists. If you are a sales person that offers IM advertising, make sure you address this as well as the incredible adoption rate of IM usage. Don't skirt the issue. Your company is most likely on top of it; so be proactive. If your company lists IM names on its website, tell them not to publish them.

What do you think about Spim? Do you use IM personally and enterprise-wide? For everyone using IM at work, does your company have a policy on IM usage? Share your thoughts on the Spin board. In the meantime I'll TTYL.

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