I’m always amazed when I see my younger friends communicating with each other using instant messaging applications. Their use of instant messaging for rapid communication, as opposed to voice contact, is a phenomenon that I must admit has never appealed to me.
I excuse myself on this one by convincing myself that I’m an ancient fossil; after all my computing experience goes all the way back to the dark ages of MS-DOS 1. Not quite the days of the Dinosaurs; but close.
My comfort zone in communications is a telephone used the old fashioned way for immediacy, or email where immediacy is not an issue. The reality is however, that programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications are extremely popular with the tech savvy younger generation, like my younger friends, who want real-time contact with each other.
Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable risks. Generally, this security risk takes place when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber criminals to distribute malware.
As Don Montgomery, VP of Marketing at Akonix Systems, Inc. a leading provider of IM Security Appliances explained recently, “For the past six years, we’ve tracked malicious IM activity, and we see that hackers continue to attack this increasingly popular collaboration tool.”
As Wikipedia explains it, hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of virus, Trojan, or spy ware within an infected file, and the use of “socially engineered” text with a web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL that connects him or her to a website that then downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans typically propagate by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.
Follow these tips to ensure you are protected when using instant messaging.
• Don’t click on links or download files from unknown sources
• Check with your contacts to ensure links or files originated with them
• Use secure passwords comprised of letters and numbers using upper and lower case characters
• Protect personal/confidential information when using IM
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