There’s a good article on Microsoft.com that talks about 5 ways to avoid viruses sent through IM. It is well worth the time to RTWT (Read The Whole Thing).
The article talks about 5 steps to avoid instant message viruses. All the suggestions are good, but there’s one in particular that I want to talk about:
Be careful downloading files in IM. Never open, accept, or download a file in IM from someone you don’t know. If the file comes from someone you do know, don’t open it unless you know what the file is and you were expecting it. Contact the sender by e-mail, phone, or some other method to confirm that what they sent was not a virus.
This is a great suggestion, but it doesn’t go far enough! IM virus writers count on the fact that you trust the person you’re receiving the file or link from.
So let me introduce "Jeff’s 2 second safety tip" — Never open a file or link you receive in IM unless you can answer two questions about the file. "What is this?" and "Why did you send it?".
Now that doesn’t mean that you have to ask those questions every time someone sends you a file. Often the answer to both of those questions will flow from the context of the IM conversation. If Sherry sends me an IM saying "can you review the May projections and update them" and sends me a file I already have both of my questions answered.
But, if I don’t have both of questions answered from the context of the conversation I do explicitly ask the sender what the file is and why they are sending it.
I recommend that you do the same.
Posted by Jeff Wilkes