Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, etc, are widely used by users that want real-time contact with each other. The danger, from a security perspective, occurs when these programs are used to share files, folders, or even entire drives.
Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (in July, 2007 almost 50% of worms used this method to spread), the following is a series of practical tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.
The first of these is to be mindful of the dangers of clicking on links or downloading files from unknown sources. Even if the files or links seemingly come from a known contact, you have to be sure that it really was this person who has sent the message; that it has not been generated automatically by malicious code. To do this, simply ask your contact about the files they have sent you; if they have been sent by malicious code, your contact will be unaware. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments, you could well be letting malware into your computer.
You should always remember to make sure the passwords you use are secure. The longer and more varied they are –using a range of different characters for example- the more secure they will be. Combining letters and numbers and using upper-case characters will help make a password more secure.
Never reveal confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, or you will be easy prey for intruders. This is particularly important in corporate environments, as confidential corporate information is a favorite target of cyber-crooks. Similarly, when using a public computer, make sure that you disable any features that remember login details to prevent other users from having free access to your instant messaging.
Try to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, as this will just give spammers another account to target, possibly even with malicious code.
Finally, take special care with the access that children have to these programs. The risk here goes beyond malware, as, sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable or even dangerous individuals. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software to help you do this.
Click here: Parental Control Bar
Overall, the best protection against these types of threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to watch over your security at all times. Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on free security software and download those you might find useful.
Click here: Best Free Security Applications