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How to block an unwanted IM

Application security expert Michael Cobb provides step-by-step procedures designed to show you how to block unwanted instant messages.

How do I block an unwanted instant message?

Instant messaging, commonly referred to as IM, is a method of online communication a bit like e-mail, and just as you receive unwanted e-mail or spam, you can also receive unwanted instant messages, often called "spim," from people with whom you don't want to communicate. They may even contain viruses.

Most IM programs, such as MSN Messenger and Windows Messenger, allow you to build a contact list or "buddy list," which is similar to the address book in your e-mail program. You can choose to block incoming messages from those not on your contact list or restrict who can add you to their list.

For example, to receive messages only from people on your contact list with MSN Messenger, do the following:

Go to the Tools menu, click Options
Click the Privacy tab
Select All others from My Allow List
Click Block

This will prevent anyone not on your contact list from sending you messages or adding you to his or her contact list.

While we are reviewing MSN Messenger, let me show you how to block people from adding you to their contact lists:

Go to the Tools menu, click Options
Click the Privacy tab
Select Alert me when other users add me to their contact lists
Click OK
Now, when someone tries to add you to their contact list, MSN Messenger will ask your permission. If this request is from a stranger or someone you don't want to hear from, select the Block this person from seeing when you are online and contacting you option.

By default, Windows Messenger allows anyone to see when you're online. To change this, complete the following steps:

Go into the Tools menu Click Options
Click the Privacy tab
Click the Block button to move All other users to your Block List
Click OK
Now, when you selectively add people to your contact list, Windows Messenger automatically adds them to your Allow List. When other users wish to add you to their contact lists, Windows Messenger warns you, and you have the choice of allowing or blocking their request.
This was last published in August 2005

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