Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, etc, are wildly popular with users that want real-time computer contact with each other. The danger, from an Internet security perspective, occurs when these programs are used to share files, folders, and in some cases entire drives.
Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), the following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.
You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message. Check with your contact to be sure the files or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.
Use only secure passwords and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.
Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations can make you an easy target for Internet predators. For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.
Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your 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
On the whole, the best protection against Instant Messaging threats involves having good antivirus and firewall protection to guard 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
For information on how Skype has become open to scamming read the article Skype says I’m infected with malware… by my tech wizard friend Techpaul.