Instant Messaging is Fun -- but can also be Dangerous!

Dennis Faas's picture

Instant messaging has done for email what email has done for land mail: namely, the waiting time for delivery (and response) has decreased dramatically. With instant messaging, you can type a message to a friend and have it delivered straight to their PC within seconds.

But like anything else we do online, chatting has some risks associated with it.

For one thing, chat clients often suffer from vulnerabilities. Just like any other piece of software, your chat client [software] needs to be updated periodically to ensure you're protected from the latest vulnerabilities that attackers seek to exploit.

And yes, AOL Instant Messenger has had a *host* of security problems -- so make absolutely sure you're running the latest version!

Secondly, be careful about default program settings. Oftentimes the default settings in popular chat programs are very lax with respect to security.

For example, some programs may allow for others to send you files without your permission. Obviously this is very problematic in today's Internet world, and so you may want to choose whether to accept or reject files that are sent to you.

But above and beyond these common threats, instant messaging and other chat programs carry their own unique set of risks.

Part of the lure of chat programs is the personal aspect to them, however this is also the same reason why they can be dangerous. In a chat room, it's often very easy to spoof one's identity due to anonymity.

For example: If we read a message posted on a newsgroup that tells us to click a certain link, most of us would be apprehensive (hint: some web links lead to web sites which feature exploits in Internet Explorer, which cause Spyware to install directly to our PCs). Using the previous example: if someone in a one-on-one casual conversation tells us to click on a similar, human nature says we probably will. And that's when clicking a link could be dangerous.

Chat rooms and instant messaging are fun technologies, and they can be quite useful. But just make sure you exercise some good common sense when using them. Otherwise you could be getting more than you bargained for!

For more great tips like this one, be sure to download David's free security newsletter to your mailbox, today!

Rate this article: 
No votes yet