Just when you thought that spam had been canned, technology market research firm The Radicati Group (Palo Alto, Calif.) reports that instant messaging (IM) is becoming the conduit of choice for senders of unsolicited messages. Fueled by a growing number of corporate and consumer IM users and an increase in published IM names in corporate and public directories, says Genelle Hung, market analyst for The Radicati Group, the problem will only worsen. According to the consultancy, the growth of SPIM (IM spam) messages, which numbered around 400 million in 2003, will triple to 1.2 billion messages worldwide in 2004.
According to Hung, however, organizations can protect themselves from SPIM. "Companies can implement authentication and security measures to prevent SPIM from penetrating a corporate network," says Hung, who adds that public IM vendors including AOL (Dulles, Va.) and Yahoo! Instant Messenger (Sunnyvale, Calif.) have introduced solutions to combat the problem.
AOL's IM Catcher quarantines IMs from unknown senders, while Yahoo! Instant Messenger enables users to sign on to an IM session without being visible to the public, she explains. Additionally, insurers can cut down on SPIM by advising their employees to avoid disseminating IM names in chat rooms and online forums.
Currently, about 90 percent of SPIM messages are one-line notes followed by URLs, says Hung, who reports that pornography accounts for 70 percent of SPIM.