AIM Viruses Spreading Quickly Through College Campuses

Published 11.03.2005


It starts with an instant message from a friend inviting you to click on a link. After you click the link, your computer is compromised and begins sending data to spyware Web sites across the world. The virus then spreads itself to members on your buddy list, inviting them to click on the same link.

AOL Instant Messenger viruses have become prevalent in the last few months and have caused increasing concern amonginformation technologydepartments across the country.AIM viruses spread through a link in an instant message window, profile, or "away" message. If your PC is infected with the virus, a link is sent to everyone on your buddy list in an attempt to infect them as well. These viruses can be very difficult to get rid of and often times a full re-install of the operating system is recommended.

The Penn College Student Help Desk, located in ATHS, Room E204, has been in place since January 2005 to assist students with viruses, spyware, and various other software- and hardware-related issues. Our student employees have seen firsthand the effects of AIM viruses.In the last four weeks alone, they have serviced more than 100 computers. Approximately 75 percentof those computers were infected with an AIM virus.

Aaron Hale, Student Help Desk Manager, explains anti-virus programs aren't enough protection from AIM viruses. "We have been seeing that most anti-virus programs haven't been preventing AIM viruses from spreading. The anti-virus programs usually don't recognize there is a problem until after the computer is already infected with an AIM virus. Even then, the virus is difficult to clean off the PC. User education and awareness are usually the best defense."

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

Don't Be Click-Happy The first line of defense is awareness. Be fully aware of the links you are clicking on.Don't click on links received in AIM unless you've first confirmed that the sender intended to send it.These links can also be in member profiles and "away" messages.Don't click on the links!

Beware of File AttachmentsDon't open any attachment received unexpectedly; first, verify that the sender intended to send it. Make sure you enable file extension viewing in Windows so you're not fooled by the infamous double-extension ruse. Before opening any attachment, scan it first using up-to-date anti-virus software.(The Kaspersky online scanner is superb for quickly checking single files under 1MB).

Stay Up-to-Date You should always have the latest critical updates installed for your operating system.Go to Microsoft's Windows Update page to check for the latest updates. Make sure your anti-virus program has the latest virus definition updates. Free anti-virus software is available to Penn College students and staff from the ITS Web page.If you have an expired anti-virus program on your computer, uninstall it before installing a new one.

What to Do If Infection Strikes If you do get hit by an AIM worm, remember that all of your contacts are now vulnerable. To avoid sending the infection to others, disconnect from the Internet and uninstall the AIM client until after the virus has been properly removed. Students can take their computers to the Student Help Desk in ATHS, Room E204, for assistance in removing viruses.