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    Protect Yourself and Family from dangerous Chat Rooms
 and Instant Messages

Serious Virus Infection !

Instant messaging - If you use it, you and yours are the Hacker's newest targets
 by Richard Rossbauer

From the first days that my Firewalls-and-virus-protection website went online a few years ago, it contained cautions on the potential dangers lurking in chat rooms.

My grand-daughters are accomplished Internet chatters, capable of carrying on rapid fire conversations with seven or eight, or even more of their friends at the same time. Many of these are classmates they haven't seen for maybe up to 30 minutes since they all left school, or got off  the school bus together.

My major concern then was the potential of predators lurking in their chat rooms, trying to entice these teenagers into divulging personal information that could lead to all types of dangerous situations.

Alerting these young people to the threats, and reminding them of the urgent need to practice 'Safe Surfing Habits' has kept them out of harm's way so far.

But now they face even greater dangers! Ones they can't see.

During the past few months, there has been a major increase in activity by Hackers, virus writers, and online spies attacking the tools used by nearly all 'Instant Messagers' (users of Instant Messaging services).

It's no longer just the teen age 'chatters' that are in danger.

Whole families are threatened.

Chat room Buddies, good or bad were at least out in the open, although buddy names or handles were really only disguises.

The Hackers and online identity thieves don't advertise their presence, even in masquerade. They just use IM to spread viruses, spyware and trojan horses. All of which can lead to capturing personal information, Credit card and bank account numbers, and even Identity Theft.

Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft appear to be the main targets. They seem to be making some efforts to stem the flow of poison. The News Media has been picking up on the growing dangers

But, is that really enough?

My concern, and one that should be yours, is how to help the hundreds of thousands of teen age 'chatters' become aware of what's happening to one of their favorite pastime pursuits?

I'm sure they don't want to be responsible for endangering their families.

I'm a very concerned Grandparent with many grandchildren. I feel that this requires more than a website, newsletter or Blog.

Many IM users are unprepared for these IM attacks. Market research company IDC™ estimates that by 2008, about 450 million people will be using an IM product.

Hackers are already taking advantage of problems with today's IM systems. People not familiar with these new threats could easily open a new, harmless looking IM message that pops up on their screen. With one well intentioned click of their mouse on a Hacker’s phony message, they could get infected.

How to protect yourself on IM

CNET™ recommends that you take the same protective measures you now use in opening e-mail and adopt them into your IM habits.

      — Use a secure browser
      — Know your merchant
      — Never open a link or attachment sent to you via IM until first making sure it’s legitimate.
      — Check and Double-check sender
      — Protect your PC. Use firewall software to limit the kinds of data that can be sent
              to you over IM.
      — Don't chat with strangers
      — Stay alert. Check with IM software providers to ensure that your security
              applications are patched and up to date.

Yahoo recently confirmed that its service, Yahoo Messenger™, was being targeted by a scam. According to reports, attackers send members a message containing a link to a fake Web site. The fake site looks like an official Yahoo site and asks the user to log in by entering a Yahoo ID and password.

The scam is convincing because the original message seems to arrive from someone on the victim's friends list. Should the recipient of the phishing message enter his details on the Web site, the attackers can gain access to any personal information stored in the victim's profile and, more important, access to the victim's contact list and IM friends list.

Yahoo said it has already put preventative measures in place to help protect its IM users from attacks (April 2005)

America Online™ reports that it is working to add new protections to its (IM) applications (April 2005)

Microsoft™ is employing technological measures to help fight the problem in the next version of Messenger. (April 2005)

PLEASE - When you use Instant Messaging, BE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS and practice Safe Messaging Habits. Ask your Chat Room and IM Buddies to do the same so they don't infect your computer.

Richard started his "Firewalls and Virus Protection" website and "Security Alert News Reporter" to help everyday Internet users navigate safely through the Cyber Space that has become a 'Cyber Jungle', loaded with ambushes and booby traps. He promotes his "Computer Security Awareness Campaign" thru his website at

Please help us educate and protect the unwary by sharing this article. Reprint it if you have a newsletter, website or ezine. Copy or print it to give to your friends. It may be used at will so long as no edits or changes are made to the content and links, and the full attribute box is included. We'd appreciate a short note telling when and where you have posted it. Thank you....Richard (

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Please try to visit where many of the issues mentioned in this brief article are addressed in greater detail.  A few minutes browsing there now might save you many hours of agony and grief later.

Thank you.
Richard Rossbauer

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