Skype users are being warned that the platform is being used by hackers to distribute a 'worm' that infects Windows PCs.
Clicking on an instant message saying "lol is this your new profile pic?" will download a file containing a Trojan horse malware file, in turn opening a backdoor allowing infected PCs to be hijacked and recruited into an army of botnets. Users can be locked out of their machines and held to ransom, and the worm sends out the "lol" message to the user's contact list. This leads unsuspecting recipients to believe that the message has originated from someone they know and click on the link.
Botnets are typically used to deliver distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks which force websites offline, as well as running spyware or sending out spam emails.
Security specialist Sophos has identified the worm as a variant of the well-known 'Dorkbot' type normally spread by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Skype users, it says, are potentially less suspicious about receiving such links than Facebook or Twitter users.
In a statement, Skype said "Skype takes the user experience very seriously, particularly when it comes to security. We are aware of this malicious activity and are working quickly to mitigate its impact. We strongly recommend upgrading to the newest Skype version and applying updated security features on your computer."