Worms biting harder into IM, P2P

Security threats that take aim at instant messaging and peer-to-peer networks are rocketing--and getting smarter, according to research reports.

Instant messaging and peer-to-peer fans are being hit with more worm and malicious code attacks than ever before, according to research reports.

The number of threats detected for IM and peer-to-peer networks rose a whopping 3,295 percent in the third quarter of 2005, compared with last year, IMlogic said in a statement Monday. That brings the total year-to-date increase for 2005 over the previous year to 2,083 percent, the security software maker said.

And as the attacks increase in number, they also get smarter, IMlogic said. Worm writers are coming up with more effective ways to get people to click on links to their malicious code, and worms can increasingly hop from one IM network to another, it noted.

The numbers echo data reported by Akonix Systems, a rival vendor of IM security products. Last week, Akonix said it identified a record 25 IM pests in September, with seven new threats. The number of attacks in the third quarter averaged just more than one per day, Akonix said.

Microsoft's IM network is the most popular target, with 62 percent of all attacks detected in the third quarter hitting MSN Messenger or Windows Messenger, IMlogic said. America Online's system is second on the list, with 31 percent affecting AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) or ICQ. Only 7 percent of the reported threats went after Yahoo Messenger users, according to IMlogic.

Experts have advised IM users to be careful when clicking on links that arrive in instant messages--even if they seem to be from people they know.

Businesses can use products from various providers, including IMlogic, Akonix and FaceTime Communications, to protect against IM pests and manage IM usage.

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