Sunday, April 26, 2009

How To Protect Your Instant Messaging Environment?

Many PC users will confirm that we are paranoid about email security and hack attacks. We should equally be concerned about the other popular connection device we use – the internet instant messenger. It is also open to some of the privacy risks we associate with emails.

10 Tips for protect your-self in chat.

1. Don’t give out your identity

Every IM client asks you to create a screen name. A screen name usually refers to your email ID. Create a screen name which does not touch upon personal information or your real identity. For instance, my screen name is ‘Braniac’ and not ‘Saikat’. And NEVER provide any personal details including credit card numbers and social security number over the internet.

2. Don’t have deals with people not on your contact list

Always vet your contact list with people whom you know something about. Talking with Mr. Anonymous at the other end of space may be fraught with risk. It is possible to discover your computer address (i.e. your IP) from an instant message and that usually is the first requirement for a remote hack attack.
Don’t believe everything you read and always verify any information or request for information.

3. Don’t click on spam links
This is probably what you will be bombarded with first. A link tempts you to click it just for the lark. A lot of these links take you to websites which can install spyware stealthily on your computer. For e.g. Viruses and worms with colorful names such as W32.Yalove or W32/Spybot-MQ are potential threats to Yahoo users.
Ignore them.

4. Don’t share files with your chat partner

An IM client like Yahoo allows P2P file sharing. Do not share unknown content even if the person is known. P2P files, like email attachments can carry viruses, Trojan horses, and worms. They are engineered to seed themselves to other members on your buddy list. Be especially cautious when someone sends you an .exe or a .zip file.

5. Don’t let potential hackers reach you

Yahoo has an Ignore user or Report as spam so that he can’t disturb you once again. GTalk has a Block user option. Using this option allows you to keep out the unwanted from repeatedly messaging you. The default security settings in chat software tend to be relatively lax. Thus making you open to attacks. Check the settings and preferences of your chat client to apply stricter permission controls.

6. Don’t Neglect Encryption

Most IM clients lack encryption features. That essentially means that your messages can be tracked and read by eavesdropping hackers using technologies like packet sniffers or similar ones. Passwords are also a security loophole with hardly any client using strong password encryption.
The subject of encryption and strong password protection would require another post by itself. So I hand you over to Tim’s excellent post on How To Secure & Encrypt Your Instant Messaging Chats. Here at MakeUseOf.com we have a lot of posts tagged as ‘passwords’. Why not take a look at ways to set strong passwords.

7. Don’t use an older version of IM – Update

IM client companies spend a lot of effort behind doors to prevent backdoor threats. Newer versions come with bug fixes and enhanced security. For instance, the latest version of Yahoo IM is better integrated with anti-virus solutions like Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Virus.

So, always update your IM client as soon as one becomes available. If the chat client does not automatically prompt for an upgrade, go to the website and check your version number with the latest available. You can note the version of your particular client by clicking on Help – About…

8. Don’t download third party plug-ins from unverified sources

A lot of third party plug-ins are available for download which enhance the chatting experience. It is safer and advisable to always download from the IM client websites themselves or from verified sources.

9. Don’t forget to log-out completely

It is an oft repeated habit to click on the [X] button and exit. But this action does not close our IM client completely. Most often, they continue to run in the system tray leaving it ‘open’ for a third person to access it. IMs also have a nasty habit of broadcasting your online presence even if left to run as a background task. Especially in public computers be mindful of logging out and exiting completely. Also, never click on any Remember My Password checkbox during log-in as an added safeguard.
Yahoo has an Ignore user or Report as spam so that he can’t disturb you once again. GTalk has a Block user option. Using this option allows you to keep out the unwanted from repeatedly messaging you. The default security settings in chat software tend to be relatively lax. Thus making you open to attacks. Check the settings and preferences of your chat client to apply stricter permission controls.

10. Don’t forget the value of a good browser, a good firewall and an even better anti-virus

Sometimes we will click a link; sometimes we will download a file. All the precautions in the world will not be able to protect us if we don’t have a secure browser, a good firewall and an anti-virus updated with the latest virus signatures. These three not only protect us from IM attacks but they are the must-haves for any system. Check out our recommendations for security programs in our article about Essential Security Downloads. Or check the MakeUseOf Polls to find out what’s more popular among MakeUseOf readers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Instant messaging system for LAN chat. Kouchat.

Sharing files across the LAN needs configurations to systems and knowledge of all the local IP and can be done only with networking know how.But you can start to lan chat,transfer files across a network using KouChat is a simple serverless chat client for local area networks written in Java and it is also portable.

All that a user has to do is the start the application and a list of all users across the network who are logged in are shown, by default every user in the network is assigned a unique number and can be changed from Tools –> Settings (or) F4.kouchat-main-window

Each user needs to have this application on his machine, and just launch it by double clicking the (*.jar) file.

Features :

* Main chat
* Private chat - Double click on any user in the user list to start a private chat with that user.
* File transfer - Drag and drop files to send
* Click on a link to open the URL in your browser which can be set in Settings.
* Smileys
* Away messages

kouchat-settings
* See when someone writes
* System tray integration
* Sound notification
* Selectable text color for your user
* Logging - Press the up and down arrow buttons when the input text field has focus to navigate through the history.
* Topic
* No configuration needed
* Console mode

Hotkeys :

/help - show this help message
/about - information about KouChat
/clear - clear all the text from the chat
/whois - show information about a user
/names - show the user list
/nick - changes your nick name
/away - set status to away
/back - set status to not awaykouchat-file-transfer
/send - send a file to a user
/msg - send a private message to a user
/transfers - shows a list of all transfers and their status
/topic - prints the current topic, or changes the topic
// - send the text as a normal message, with a single slash

Requirements : Java SE 6

Download file : KouChat (.jar)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How To Secure Your Yahoo Messenger?

Yahoo instant messenger has been one of the most known and full-optioned online chat clients the world has ever seen. With wide choice of options and buddies around, you can not just drop using Yahoo Messenger once you have grown used to it. But where there is crowd, there are risk factors too. Alarmingly people have lost their accounts to hackers and have got millions of spyware and junk mails thanks to Yahoo messenger and its spam friendly technology. How do you get the best out of your chat buddy without risking your account? Well, here is a complete guide that will help you to prevent the hackers.

1. Prevent P2P file Sharing Through Yahoo Messenger

Be it known or unknown, prefer not to receive any file from your friend unless you know what he is sharing and why. Avoid downloading .exe or .zip files from them as they are more likely to attack your computer or install trozans without you being aware of it. Never trust a stranger when he asks you to click on any site you haven't heard of.

2. Don't click on Spammy Links

If you were chatting with someone else and suddenly a PM box flashes on the screen with a lucrative offer/interesting site which has a spammy look, don't click on it. These websites have a lot of spyware who get silently installed if you go and surf them. Never download a toolbar unless its as authenticated as Yahoo's or Google's.

3. Use Ignore Option Wisely

Yahoo has an ignore option that lets you ban a person or mark as spam so that he can't disturb you once again. Use that option effective. Go to Yahoo Messenger main box -> Preferences -> Ignore List. If you want to avoid talking to strangers (which I always recommend)i.e. wanna talk to your buddies only, Check Ignore anyone.. option. That helps you be safe and block on the unwanted and potential hackers from reaching you. See the screen-shot below.

4. Use other Chat Clients

Yahoo Messenger has too many loopholes. It doesn't have a strong security to block contents either. So, if you want to get rid of spams and porn contents all under one go, then you should go for some popular and secure yahoo chat clients like Yazak. You can also go for Yah-Elite and Yam They may not have the same sophisticated GUI or entertainment features but they will increase the security of the chat sessions by many folds.

Here is a link that can help you with some more chat clients. I don't recommend any except these.

5. Always Check and Install Newer Versions of Yahoo Messenger

Remember, the more you stay with the older versions and feel lazy to get upgraded, the more you are helping the hackers. Yahoo or any software, brings out these updates not only to extend features but also due to security reasons. A newer version of yahoo messenger 9 is hardly bootable by DoS attack whereas Yahoo Messenger 7 can be booted out or hacked by a script kiddie.

6. Don't download Yahoo Plug-ins from Unauthorized source

Do not ever download a plug-in of Yahoo messenger from any other site however lucrative it be. Plug-ins like these exploit the vulnerability once installed and send your account details to a third party revealing and cracking down your id. So, better be safe than sorry. No?

7. Use Proxy if you have a Better Firewall

Yahoo also gives you option to change your proxy. Go to Preferences and hunt down Proxy servers. You will see that you can set your own proxy server so that Yahoo gets redirected through yours giving you a better chance to protect yourself and secure by your network. But if only you have that faith on your network security. You can change it by going to Yahoo Messenger main box -> Preferences -> Connection

8. Use Word Filter

You can also use your word Filter in Yahoo messenger. It just discards all the obscene or threatening words by intelligent filtering system if you choose Strong option. But be aware, there may be some times when your own friend can get banned while cursing your jokingly. Word filter is another good option to be within your network and not let some specifically targeted spammers to arrive. It increases security too. You can change it by going to Yahoo Messenger main box -> Preferences -> Chat.

9. Be sure to Remove Your Profile after Chatting from a Public computer

Most of the users don't know about it. Whenever you sign in to yahoo messenger, yahoo makes a profile of yours in the directory Yahoo -> Messenger -> Profiles by the name of your yahoo id. There is an option by default at Yahoo messenger that messages will be saved as long as you are signed in to your account for that session. A good hacker can have access to that file and decrypt it to learn your private conversations.

What you must do if you are sharing a public computer to chat from, is, you can change it by going to Yahoo Messenger main box -> Preferences -> Archive. Change it to No, do not save any of my messages and you are done. Oh don't forget to delete your profile from Profiles inside Yahoo folder after you sign out.
10. Apply Your Common sense and Use a good Antivirus and anti spyware software

Applying your common sense is the least you can do to prevent your account from being hacked. A good anti-virus and anti-spyware always warns you about dangers that you may have overlooked. So its better to have them as well. If you implement the above 9 tips, you won't need to worry much I gues until you personally hand over your information to the person willing to crack your computer down.

Yahoo messenger is a very nice and useful place to meet new buddies and get connected with the old ones. Just be safe and secure and follow the above steps. You will be fine. Do you have something to tip all of us? Why don't you share. We are waiting.

Source: http://blog.taragana.com/index.php/archive/10-tips-to-make-your-yahoo-messenger-hack-proof/
Author: Soumya Sinha

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