IM spam to triple in 2004: study

Spam sent via instant messaging (IM) is set to become a major nuisance in 2004, with the number of IM spam messages tripling from 400 million to 1.2 billion, according to research firm the Radicati Group.

The increase in IM spam, also referred to as "spim", will come about due to much greater use of IM among businesses and a rapid increase in published IM names in corporate and public directories, Radicati said in a report.

The overall business IM market will grow by 130 percent from 2002 to 2003, and a further 85 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to another research company, Ferris Research Inc. By 2007, the overall business IM market will increase to 182 million users, representing a compound annual growth rate of 79 percent.

IM spammers are developing sophisticated software which automatically sends messages -- which are mainly touting pornography -- to millions of users, and which can automatically change screen names when the user blocks an IM attempt, according to another research company, Ferris Research Inc.

And because of the intrusive nature of IM, spim may be more annoying to recipients but also more successful, Ferris said.

IM spam still represents a small fraction of the overall spam problem. E-mail spam will more than double in 2004 to 35 billion messages, Radicati estimated.

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