Beware of friends touting games in AOL Instant Messenger.

Just when you think using the Internet can’t get any more annoying someone comes up with a new way to hijack your PC and piss you off. This new thing is not a virus and yet it spreads like one and it’s already annoying the hell out of me. 

Wired News: Adware Spreads Quickly on AOL IM

The problem starts when users receive an instant message that appears to come from someone on their Buddy List (a list of friends and co-workers who also use the AOL Instant Messenger service). The message reads “check this out” and includes a link that contains a reference to “osama capture.php.”

If users click on the link, a program that is supposedly a game asks permission to be downloaded and installed onto their computers. Installing the game gives the company that produces it—purportedly, an outfit called PSD Tools—permission to display ads on the users’ computers. In addition, the software spreads the “fun links” to everyone on the users’ Buddy Lists.

“While many who have installed it are describing the game as a virus, the truth is that by neglecting to read the terms of service included with the game, they have given the program’s distributors permission to take over their computers,” said Matty Janko, a systems administrator whose 23-computer network was invaded by the game Wednesday.

Yeah, my Trillian client has been going off almost hourly with IMs from people who have installed this stupid “game” which then proceeded to spam the hell out of everyone on their buddy list including, apparently, me. The first time it happened I clicked the link it sent to see what it was as I get a lot of IMs from folks who want to tell me about legitimate news items I might be interested in reading. As soon as I saw it was a “game” and the instructions exhorting me to click YES when questioned for my approval to install it I got pissed off and blocked the person who sent it to me.

I think I may have also said “stop sending me this shit” as well so if it was you and you’re offended, well, now you know why.

In addition to spamming the hell out of everyone in your buddy list, the program’s TOS says you’re agreeing to receive ads (think popups even when you don’t have a browser open) and granting them permission to forciably install whatever the fuck they want to on your PC without asking first.

Before the game loads, users are presented with a terms-of-service document that, among other things, allows the PSD Tools Instant Messenger Client to “modify the instant messenger software, deliver additional content such as advertisements and promotional messages.”

“In addition, the software will interoperate with your current instant messaging client so as to permit the automatic sending of advertising messages originating from your computer to your contact or ‘buddy’ list regarding content offered by PSD Tools or its suppliers.”

The PSD software includes an automatic update feature. The terms of service give permission to PSD Tools or “third parties designated by PSD Tools” to periodically provide “automatic programming fixes, updates and upgrades to the software which may include installation of third party applications, through automatic electronic dissemination and other means.”

Basically, you agree that they can bug you and your friends endlessly while having free reign to do whatever they want with your PC at any time as well as allowing them to provide access to your PC to anyone they wish. Hope you’ve got that jar of KY Jelly handy, you’re going to need it for the ass reaming you’re about to receive from these people, let alone everyone in your buddy list that these assholes end up perstering (like me).

Supposedly you can uninstall the application at any time via the Add/Remove Programs function under the Window’s control panel, but some users are reporting that doing so wipes out your AOL IM profile and others say the program just re-installs itself anyway. Folks, take the time to read that TOS before you install anything even if it does come from a trusted friend.

Update: Looks like AOL is pretty pissed about this as well.

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