Computer Security Tip: Instant Messaging

What is it? This software chat program is one of the most popular, convenient ways in which classmates, colleagues, family and friends communicate with one another via computers in real-time.

What risks are involved? Viruses can be very easily transmitted via instant messages containing files or links. IM programs, like all software, may also contain bugs and flaws that could compromise your computer. And because IMs are not encrypted, there is always the possibility that a third party is monitoring your messages.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Update IM software when the latest versions are released.
  • Do not share identifying information, such as credit card or social security numbers, over IM.
  • Reset your password often.
  • If you're programming-savvy, try using an open-source IM program such as gaim or Fire, which tend to have fewer security flaws.
  • If a stranger requests that you check out a URL, don't click on the link (chances are it's infected).