Instant Messaging (IM) has become a primary source of online communication for many Internet users. It’s considered to be far more efficient to converse online, in real time, than to send an email and wait for a response. It was stated by the CTO and Vice President of Products for IMlogic, John Sakoda, that worms and viruses, which can be transmitted over Instant Messaging pathways, are growing exponentially. The current focus of attack has been shifted to Instant Messaging, due to the perception that this is an unprotected enterprise channel.
Instant Messaging works on P2P (peer-to-peer) networks which is basically one computer connected directly to another. Because of this, computer hackers can easily share a maliciously encoded file with a targeted victim. It should also be noted that P2P networks operate on publically shared encryption codes (codecs) and standard public protocols. In addition, your anti-virus software will not include IM services in its scans.
All of this makes it very simple for a malicious hacker to gain access to a computer through IM clients. This access can take the form of viruses, worms, Trojan Horses and gather personal data that can be used by the hacker or sold to other criminals.
First of all, an IM user needs to understand that, in all likelihood, they can easily be a target! Let’s take a look at some examples of hacker techniques and hacker resources that are available today.
Most people are not aware that there are actually processor chips for sale that can facilitate hacking. These chips don’t need to be purchased in some seedy underground criminal shop in some back alley. No – they can be purchased right on the Internet! Along with a processor chip, a potential hacker can obtain software that is designed to compromise computer security measures. This readily available software is exclusively designed to steal personal information and spread malicious code.
Not skilled in the ways of hacking? No longer is it necessary for one to be a computer code expert in order to become a hacker. You can also find detailed hacker manuals on the Internet, as well. And don’t think that you need to be directly connected to a hacker in order to become a victim. There are available telecommunication tools that are usually used to track down and solve problems which can be used by hackers. These can be used to hunt down IM data packets and put them back together in order to reconstruct the IM conversation. From these conversations, information can be gathered and sold to criminal elements.
An Instant Messaging attack will usually come in the form of a transmitted virus, worm or Trojan Horse which will carry the disguised virus and/or worms. The effects of the malicious software that is transmitted can interfere with a computer’s security software through: the termination of software processes, deleting files, halting services and removing entries from the registry.
In addition to security software, malicious hackers can also damage operating systems that can cripple a business. These systems can include Windows 11, 10, 7, Win XP, Windows NT, Windows 98 and other variations of Windows. Apple Mac systems are less likely to be affected, since Windows is more commonly used.
First of all, you should always refrain from using file sharing over P2P networks. These networks are public and run on common and easily interpreted computer industry protocols and standards. Instant Message operates over P2P networks.
So what can you do, if you like to conveniently chat over your computer? Well, there are voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) options that feature Instant Messaging. These services are highly secured, if they are not operated over a P2P network. You can determine this by asking the VoIP provider if this is the case.
Secured VoIP now offers an IM chat feature that utilizes the same encrypted codecs that are used by the VoIP company’s proprietary software. These services are securely hosted in the VoIP company’s own secured facility. Of course, this means that the same security that is being offered for a VoIP company’s voice communications is being offered for its IM services, as well.
So, these are your options:
1. Continue using IM over a P2P network and risk being hacked or
2. Immediately find a secured VoIP alternative that includes secured IM.
The trend for hackers to use IM as a way into an unwitting victim’s PC is rapidly increasing. The best way to avoid being a victim is to take some preventative measures that will place a barrier between you and the hackers.