Instant messaging applications add a lot of convenience, but few people take the time to think about security concerns. Every day, hackers are trying to gain access to conversations. The good news is, there are certain things that can be done to make instant messaging safer.
Avoid Exposing Private Information: Developers have warned that many of the instant messaging applications make it easy for private information to be exposed and used for fraudulent purposes. Researchers at the University of California studied more than 120,000 free applications that are available for use on Android devices.
Many of the applications have parts of the code that are public, which means they could be modified easily for fraudulent purposes. The use of malicious code allows hackers and other individuals having malicious intent to send messages on behalf of someone, to get access to personal information and to replace the actual application with code designed for alternative purposes.
Despite the emphasis on Android apps, researchers believe that similar security concerns are valid for iPhone instant messaging options.
Encryption … or the Lack thereof: Several other instant messaging apps for smartphones were examined concerning the manner in which personal information is transferred and stored. WhatsApp, a market leader in the instant messaging niche, has been accused of transmitting address books and personal information unencrypted to the app server. Many bits of private information, including ID, are readily available for third parties to see and to utilize.
An even more troublesome trend has emerged recently. Certain applications were developed for the purpose of getting access to the instant messaging conversations of other people and for access to personal information. WhatsApp Sniffer is one such development. Such applications reveal once again how many security gaps instant messaging applications leave.
Facebook Chat? Think Again: Various surveys were carried out and the conclusion is that Facebook Chat applications for mobile devices are one of the least safe options on the market. Encryption is not used to protect log in, which means that the password of an individual can easily be seen. The instant messaging conversations themselves are protected minimally. Yahoo! Messenger and the now defunct Windows Live Messenger are two other applications that fail protecting member conversations adequately.
Using Instant Messaging Apps Safely: What does it Take? The first and most obvious thing you can do to increase instant messaging safety and privacy is the selection of the right application. No two instant messaging apps are alike. Some developers put more emphasis on the protection of sensitive data. Data encryption is the first and the most basic way of data protection. Make sure that the apps you choose transfer all information in an encrypted form to the server. Some apps, like Skype, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger and similar major developments brag higher than usual security. Make sure you do your research before downloading your app of choice to keep your information secure.
The wireless network that you use to do instant messaging is just as important. Open networks like the ones available in cafés, at airports and bus stations are very easy to break through. When doing instant messaging, rely on a closed, password-protected internet network. Instant messaging can be used to communicate with friends, business partners and acquaintances. Still, it is important to keep security concerns in mind. Though convenient, instant messaging can compromise personal information if the wrong app is chosen. Choose applications carefully and be smart in terms of what you share.
The preceding post was a guest post written by Scott McGinty, a blogger and avid online privacy and security advocate. With his experience in criminology and crime prevention he hopes to share information with those online about the dangers and precautions one can take to avoid security threats online.