Avoid Worms – Instant Messaging Tips

image I wrote earlier today about a new worm currently circulating on the Internet, which Panda Security identifies as the MSNWorm.GU.

This worm uses MSN Messenger, and other chat applications, to spread. It infects systems silently, and without any visible symptoms.

Infection occurs when the victim clicks on a download link contained in a message received from a contact. Clicking on the link installs the worm on the target system, and the infection begins.

So, is there anything unusual about this worm; is it just a one off occurrence? Not at all – instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware. In fact, recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use instant messaging applications to spread.

Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable security risks. Security risks increase  substantially when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

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The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations can make you an easy target for Internet predators. For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however, do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable, or even dangerous individuals.

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.

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Click here: “Parental Control Bar”

On the whole, the best protection against Instant Messaging threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to guard your security at all times. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on free security software and download those you might find useful.

Click here: “Best Free Security Applications”

For information on how Skype has become open to scamming, read the article Skype says I’m infected with malware … by my tech wizard friend Techpaul.

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5 Comments

Filed under Child Safety Internet, Communication, Don't Get Hacked, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Panda Security, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

5 responses to “Avoid Worms – Instant Messaging Tips

  1. Mr. Mullins,
    Please allow me to say that this article exemplifies why I am a big fan of what you do here on Tech Thoughts.

    Not only does it educate folks to a very real danger they face while on the Internet, but it gives them the ‘know how’ to deal with the situations they will encounter (or, have encountered).

    And so, I would like to bestow upon you the first-ever Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award… which I just now made up.

    I have said it before and I will say it again: it is my humble opinion that your site should be required reading before one can earn their Surfer’s License (an idea that is actually gaining some traction).

    The answers and advice you provide is absolutely A Number One Top Drawer, and you deserve several awards, frankly.

  2. Pingback: First-ever Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award « Tech – for Everyone

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  4. worms and those message spam thinsg are so annyoting, good tips