What should I do if my computer is infected with an instant messaging (IM) Trojan?
Warning: To avoid viruses spread via instant messaging (IM), think before you click; if you receive a message out of the blue, with nothing more than a link and/or general text, do not click it. For more, see Best practices for computer security.
If your computer is infected with an instant messaging (IM) Trojan, the remote attacker can, among other things, control chat sessions, send the Trojan to people on your buddy list, and perform Denial of Service (DoS) attacks using your computer.
If you're notified that your computer is sending a virus or participating in DoS attacks, immediately unplug the network cable and reformat and reinstall your operating system. Additionally, if you were running IM software while logged into your computer with administrative rights, any infection contracted through that software will have administrative rights also, and you will also have to reformat and reinstall the operating system. It is not sufficient to simply remove the infection, because doing so will not remove any programs that may have been installed with administrative rights while the computer was compromised. For help reformatting and reinstalling your system, see:
- In Windows, how do I safely rebuild my computer?
- Why do I have to format and reinstall Windows after my computer is infected with a virus?
- How do I install or upgrade Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)?
It is safest to run IM software without administrative rights, as outlined in What is the principle of least privilege? If you were following the principle of least privilege at the time of infection, University Information Security Office (UISO) at Indiana University may consider using a cleaning tool or deleting your profile instead of wiping your computer.
Following are examples of infections that can be spread via IM applications:
Note: For personal computers, UITS recommends Windows Defender for Windows 8.x, which comes as part of Windows 8.x as a full antivirus suite. Be aware that the earlier version of Windows Defender on IUware is not the full suite, but a spyware program only. For Windows 7 and Vista, UITS recommends Microsoft Security Essentials, available free of charge via IUware. Be sure to have only one antivirus program installed.