Instant Messaging Safety and Security

Without instant messaging (IM), many people would feel lost on their computer, if not socially. IM is a simple way to get in touch with someone without calling them on the phone.

When you are on the computer using one of these programs, you can simply double click your contact’s name and type a message to them in real time without having to wait for them to read an email. As long as the person you want to contact is online using the same IM program, you will be able to initiate an online “conversation.”

Popular IM Versions

The most popular instant messenger programs are Yahoo, Microsoft MSN, and AOL – which have all been available for quite some time. These programs are all widely used which makes them vulnerable to attack from hackers who are eager to send worms or computer viruses to others’ computers.

For computer thugs, the use of IM has become even more popular for sending a virus than through email simply because people have become increasingly aware of email security. Additional computer vulnerability is created because many people leave their IM’s on all day, even when they aren’t using the computer.

Learning Safety Tips

That isn’t to say you need to close down your IM program and give it up entirely. Rather, you should learn how to use it safely so that your computer stays uninfected while you are on it. It comes to a matter of using common sense. Just as you wouldn’t open an attachment in your email from someone you don’t know, it is as imperative to refrain from clicking on links that people send to you in an IM message.

Configure your settings so no one can contact you at all unless you have personally added them to your contact list. That way you will not inadvertently click on a link carelessly on the incorrect assumption that you know the person sending it to you.

If you inadvertently click a link that downloads a virus to your computer, it will continue to eat away at your data until it is finished collecting all your information or spreading dangerous programs on it.

Other Security Programs

You will find a degree of security in some of the newer firewalls, anti-spyware programs, and anti-virus programs that work with your IM programs to help repel or capture and destroy potential viruses.

If such software doesn’t clearly state that it works with instant messenger programs then most likely it does not – so try to purchase one in which IM program protection is included.

Viruses and worms are prevalent on the Internet, and hackers are very persistent in their attacks against computers. It is up to you to make sure you have every security loophole blocked and your computer has maximum protection.

Many people are confused by the seemingly maze of different types of security software needed on their home computer and therefore don’t want to bother. They often don’t understand what each type accomplishes, the protections they offer, or the limitations of each. Just a little time committed to self-education will pay off in the long-run.