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Dangers of Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is generally referred to as chatting or IM in internet slang. This article talks about its underlying technology and the dangers associated with this form of online communication.
Aarti R
Instant messaging is much faster than other ways of internet communication like e-mails, and it proffers immediate gratification to the user. Nowadays, it is a popular way of social interaction. Answering e-mails is time-consuming and it does not indicate whether the person you want to communicate with, is online or not. It not only saves time and money, but also enables faster communication and also maintains a natural flow of the conversation. It is one of the best ways available on the internet, for staying in touch with relatives and friends.
Underlying Technology
Instant messaging is usually done using any one of the software applications, easily available on the internet. These software applications enable chatting and are provided by companies, which maintain an active server. Once you log in, the software application sends your IP address and port to the server, which is the necessary information required for online communication. The server allows your computer to stay connected and shows you the list of online colleagues or friends. The server always keeps a track of the people online and also those off-line, so that the application can readily indicate this data. When you choose to talk to someone, the software application installed on your computer sends a request for the IP address and port number of that person's computer. A direct communication is then established between the two computers. Instant messengers do not use any internet communication standards, but all the companies have standards of their own.
Spam: Spamming refers to the misuse of internet facilities, to send the same message to a large number of people. Spams are repetitive and bulk postings of unsolicited messages. Like email, instant chatting is also prone to spamming. Using reliable spam filters, is a solution that can help you to avoid them. Many applications have an option, using which, spam can be disabled. However, the problem with spam filters is that they block everyone who is not on your friend-list.
Personal Information: Any kind of personal information must not be provided when you are opening an account. It is usually used for finding relatives and friends, but this personal information may be abused by miscreants. For extra care and protection, the option of creating your profiles on the instant messenger must be avoided. Even replying to strangers and giving them your personal information is risky. You should not use your own name; instead, screen names must be used.
Worms and Viruses Instant messengers are often responsible for worm and virus attacks on your computer. Be careful while clicking on any link, even if it has been sent by a person whom you know. Viruses and worms can come to your computers in any form. Using a good anti-virus software coupled with a strong firewall, is a good option to avert them. Downloading files may also prove to be dangerous.
You must have a habit of storing all chat sessions, so that they can prove to be useful anytime. Even when used for business and corporate purposes, the chat sessions must be stored. If you are using public computers, make sure that computer is not set to remember any passwords.