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The Messenger Service is a service in Windows 2000 and XP that allows messages to be sent from a server to a workstation or from workstation to workstation over a network via the 'net send' command. Unfortunately, spammers figured out how to send spams via the service, and a recent flaw was discovered in the service that would allow a hacker to take control of the computer.
If you are one of the many people who has received pop-up spam via the messenger service, or you think you might be receiving it, there is another helpful FAQ entry here that will explain how it works and tell you how to stop it from happening again:
In a corporate environment, network administrators may use the messenger service to alert employees that a server is going down for maintenance, or they may set up a server to automatically send them a message when a virus is detected on a computer. Most home users have no need for the service, which is why so many sites suggest that it be disabled. In fact, Microsoft is going to disable the service by default in XP Service Pack 2, due out in summer of 2004.
Many news sites equate the two. They are not the same thing! Hackers cannot hack you because you use MSN or Windows Messenger, nor will disabling the Messenger Service prevent you from chatting.