Friday, December 28, 2007

Do You Text Chat (IM) Online?

IM (Instant Messaging) - man, we thought we had it made in the shade when we stumbled over this unique way to communicate! Outside of talking person-to-person on the phone, IM was the next best thing. Texting talk was endless and cost was nonexistent. Well, those were the good old days of yore - you know, those days of glorious innocence.

Just as we were getting oh so comfortable, happily IMing away to each other, then came the cloak-and-dagger entrance of the treacherous "IM villains". With their ominous arrival, the party abruptly ended. It seemed like overnight, our instant messaging (IM) turned into instant mercenaries, and the carnage was strewn all over the Internet.

First, it was one by one, then the numbers increased and starting growing exponentially, as friends began receiving, and inadvertently sending, viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Then it went from bad to worse, as report after report surfaced describing the grisly results of innocent victims losing their identity because these villains had accessed their personal and confidential information. Truly this was the darkest of times for all IMer friends - regardless of the IM service we were texting on.

How could this have happened? And more importantly, how can we protect ourselves?

Well, I found out that these villainous hackers had accessed a nifty little program originally designed to benefit us, and twisted it to intercept our conversations traveling across the internet. They now have a profitable tool to use that intercepts our data packets and sends us a virus, and duplicates it by sending the same ugly bug to everyone on our Buddy List.

Once a hacker has gained access to our Buddy List, they trick our friends into thinking WE, (a trusted source), are sending them a file to download. Then when our friends innocently download the file, these villains can then access their computers as well, and use the personal and confidential information gathered to line their own pockets. How it affected businesses whose employees used IM to communicate…well, I will just let your imagination take over from there…because the hackers let theirs do the same.

A lot of us were thinking that we had nothing to worry about because we had anti-virus software on our computers, and that provided the protection we needed. Wrong!

Anti-virus software is not designed to protect our data packets traveling across the internet. There are still no anti-virus applications that directly monitor IM traffic. This is due to the difficulty in finding IM traffic as it is often embedded inside http packets. And what is worse yet is that Forrester's, Root stated that "In 2005 and 2006, we expect IM to get hit with some serious attacks…"

But, don't despair! I have discovered a cure!

In fact, I discovered the best of both worlds. What I have found is a computer phone (in "techy" terms known as VoIP - voice over internet protocol) that is optimally secure. One of the many features of the computer phone is the IM that is built into it. Thus, the IM instant messages are sent over optimally secure lines rather than openly public lines on the Internet -- AND I can also actually talk to friends from my computer phone any time I want. The "good old days of yore" are back with even more !!!

Here's what a computer phone is all about.

The computer phone was the creation resulting from taking the convenience and features of the telephone and combining it with the power of the Internet. Pretty ingenious I think! Although most computers have a built in microphone, some do not. Mine was one of those computers that did not. So, I ran down to a local store and bought one for $5. Then, much to my delight, I found out that it easily plugged into the back of my computer.

Here is what is really incredible about a computer phone. I can talk, IM, make 3-way calls, transfer a call to my cell phone if I am running out the door, and much, much more.

Actually, I have become so accustomed to the convenience of the features on my computer phone, that it actually becomes frustrating when I cannot IM a friend I am talking to on their cell phone or telephone. You see, often times, I find great sites to share with my friends, so I have to slowly spell out the location over the phone and repeat the letters so they get the right site, then wait for them to repeat it back to me, rather than quickly IMing them the site and letting them click on it right then and there.

One final word of wisdom -- over 90% of all computer phone (VoIP) services out there do not operate on secure lines. The one I am using is optimally secure because they have their own proprietary high end encryption codec (code) with patented technology that is hosted in a professional facility. You just can't get any better than that!

Want to try a computer phone out for yourself?

You can download the software and try it out for 7 days absolutely free and without any contract, obligations, or hassles. Here's the place to visit Oh, and yes, you will love this….if you use a dial up connection to the internet, these computer phones work too, in addition to satellite, cable, and wireless connections.

Dee Scrip is a well-known and respected published author of numerous articles on VoIP, VoIP security, and other VoIP related issues.

Chat: What You Should Know About Internet Chatting

With the advent of technology, chatting has become one of the favorite pastimes of people. What is there to hate about chatting? It is fun. It is anonymous. It can be done at the comforts of your own home.

This is perhaps the reason why people are going gaga over chat channels and websites. A number have already cropped up, from the ever-popular Yahoo Chat! to the downloadable chat program MIRc.

Millions and millions of people are logging on chat channels everyday, exchanging messages and thoughts. It has become so immensely popular that it has even sparked some spin-offs like the Yahoo Messenger, where Yahoo users can chat through instant messages.

But while fun, anonymity and home-based are the very reasons why people are enjoying chat rooms, they are also the very reasons why chat rooms have become dangerous. Before you chat, make sure that you know everything about the dangers of chatting.

Facts are not facts

Not everything that people say over chat is the truth. While there are some who reveal their true age, gender and location, many chatters conceal their true identities.

Some even assume different identities and personality traits over the Internet. One should not believe everything that people type in their computers. Remember that anonymity of chat rooms provide much courage for people who would like to deceive other people.

Of course, this is not to say that all chatters are deceitful. Some are basically honest but will not yet reveal much about themselves especially to newcomers in the chat room. For some, chatting is like building relationships with people. You also have to invest time and effort.

Eyeballs and invites to meet

Some who have already been chatting for quite some time may decide to meet in person to continue the association. Though most personal meetings are legitimate, some criminals use chat rooms to lure young women from their homes. There have been numerous cases of kidnapping that started in chat rooms.

If you want to go and meet a person that you have been chatting with, make sure that you meet the person in a crowded place and in the morning where people can see you. Keep the meeting short and do not let the meeting last until nightfall.

Another thing that you should not do is to let the person lure you away from crowded areas. It is important that you exercise caution as these are people that you do not really know.

Virus attack

Chat rooms have become very sophisticated nowadays. Not only do people chat but they also play music, share picture and music files and exchange all kinds of files from their computers. This leaves your PC vulnerable to virus.

To avoid being contaminated with a virus, make sure that you only accept file downloads from sources that you trust and know. When there are unsolicited pop-ups that ask you to click on their links to view photos, do not click on them. Most often that not, these links contain viruses that may harm your PC.

It is also a good idea to always activate your virus protection and firewall whenever you are chatting. This will sufficiently protect your PC from viruses that may enter your system when downloading files shared by other chatters.

James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about chat.