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Stop Windows Messenger Spam

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Lytle David Smith
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3/25/04

If you occassionally have a small window appear in the middle of your Windows computer with some unusual message, you might be receiving "Messenger Spam". If so, the window's title bar should say "Messenger Service", or something similar. All too frequently, the message will be an advertisement for a product that will prevent ads (like the very one you are reading at the time) from appearing on your screen. Luckily, you don't have to buy anything to prevent Messenger Spam.

If you have Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, then you have a service called "Messenger" that is probably running. It's purpose in life is to display error messages on your screen whenever something unusual happens on your computer. It is mainly designed for server-type systems, not really for individual workstations.

Well some people have too much time on their hands and, as we know all too well, idle hands are the devils workshop. In this particular case, those idle hands might be taking it upon themselves to irritate you.

Basically, what they are doing is probing your computer from the Internet and finding that you have the Messenger service running. This tells them that they can send stupid, irritating messages to your computer and freak you out for absolutely no productive reason whatsoever.

On your computer, go to Start / Settings / Control Panel / Administrative Tools / Services. Look for the line that says "Messenger" in the Name column. Right-click on the word "Messenger" and choose "Properties" from the context menu. Click the "Stop" button to stop the current instance of the service, change "Startup type" to "Disabled" to prevent the service from starting when you boot your computer, click "OK" to close the Properties dialog box, then close the Services window. You will no longer be running the Messenger service, so you will no longer receive those irritating messages.

The primary targets of Messenger Spam are computers that are connected directly to the Internet, usually via cable modem or DSL. Such computers, being connected to the Internet 24/7, are at much higher risk of some kind of attack from the Internet simply because they are exposed for much longer periods of time than those computers that use dial-up connections to access the Internet. Also, full-time connections like cable and DSL generally maintain the same IP address for long periods of time. This essentially makes them sitting ducks, whereas dial-up connections are assigned a different IP address with each connection, thus making them much more of a moving target.

If you have a cable or DSL Internet connection, you should consider installing a router on your network to prevent your system from being probed from the Internet. Even the least expensive routers available (using Network Address Translation or NAT) will provide you with enough of a firewall to largely make your computer invisible to the Internet. This will prevent Messenger Spam without stopping the Messenger service. It will also prevent all sorts of other undesireable activities from affecting your computer, and it will enable you to easily share your Internet connection between multiple computers.

Very nice routers are available for well under $100. I am currently very fond of D-Link routers. They are very cheap and have features, like Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) and Port Forwarding, that until recently were only available on much more expensive routers.



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