Currently Instant Messaging has evolved as the favourite means of communication for most of us. The ability to communicate faster and easier makes it an ideal medium for both business and personal communication. Unfortunately, like any other means of online communication instant messaging also has threats. Main reason why these apps are such a big hit with users is because they are easy to use and more importantly, free. A few Instant Messengers are WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber, wechat, and many more.

Risks in Mobile Instant Messaging for women

In today’s world women are leading in all facets of life. Though this is the existing situation in this contemporary world, women are still found to be victims, are bearing pain and loss in both personal and professional lives. The growing reach of the internet and the rapid spread of information through different devices have presented new opportunities and also risks that could put some women at risk. Cyber threats against women should make us get involved to explore ways to stay safe.

Let’s see a few risks associated while using Instant Messengers and how we can avoid these risks. 

  • Leakage of Sensitive Information:

Many of the instant messaging applications make it easy for private information to be exposed and could be used for fraudulent purposes. Most of these are associated with profile picture of an individual. This can be seen and accessed by any one who has your phone number. So this can cause a major threat to privacy of women and needs to be taken very seriously and need to explore ways to ensure that the women who use these stay safe. In the Cyber space, women safety is paramount.

It is always advisable to check the security settings and disable the feature of your profile picture being viewed by everyone.

Information Disclosure – A Case Study

Some instant messaging allows all communication to be saved in log-files. The logs may include sensitive data. A case was reported where a hacker stole logs of the CEO of a company. The hacker posted the logs to several places on the Web, thereby creating one of the worst possible corporate nightmares. The logs included sensitive company data regarding business partners, employees and affiliate websites. After posting the logs, several members of the senior staff of the company resigned.

This case shows how dangerous it can be if a hacker is able to monitor instant messaging sessions. Even though the log-files were stolen in this case, sniffing the data-packets could have caused the same damage.

  • Surveillance/Tracking:

Sharing of location by sharing the live location is a serious threat that can happen to women. Any criminal who knows your number can catch hold of the location services to identify your general routine of travel and plan illegal activities accordingly.

Use location services only with known people and avoid sharing with strangers

  • Hacking:

Several other instant messaging apps for smart phones were examined concerning the manner in which personal information is transferred and stored. One of the market leaders in the instant messaging 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 utilize.

Certain applications were developed for the purpose of getting access to the instant messaging conversations of other people and for access to personal information.

Make sure that the apps you choose transfer all information in an encrypted form to the server.

  • Impersonation:

Too much sensitive information is stored online for hackers. A hacker can obtain passwords, system configuration information, and sensitive files via instant messaging. Hackers can impersonate other users in many different ways. The most frequently used attack is simply stealing the account information of an unsuspecting user.

Avoid sharing confidential information through IM chats

  • Harassment/Spamming:

This is the use of technology to continuously contact, annoy, threaten, and/or scare the victim. This is ongoing behaviour and not one isolated incident; e.g., persistent mobile calls/ texts; filling up voicemail with messages so no one else can leave a message.

  • A easy way to Spread of Malicious Code

An IM worm is self-replicating malware that spreads in IM networks. When an IM worm infects a PC, it locates the address book for the IM client, which is called a buddy list or contact list, and tries to send itself to all the infected person's contacts. Some IM worms use social engineering techniques to trick the recipient into accepting a message that contains the malicious code. Instant messenging software is also being used to deliver spam. Spam delivered through IM instead of e-mails is known as ‘spim’.

Be suspicious about links received, before clicking; ask your friend if they sent it.

  • Network issues

The risk of denial of service attacks is much greater with an Instant Messaging application. These attacks make the instant messenger to crash. It prevents legitimate users from accessing the network by using the network excessively to consume resources, destroy configurations, and alter network components. The intruder is able to intercept messages, set up devices to communicate with each other illegally, and consume other resources that your operating system needs to function properly.

Very often women users are the main target. One common type of attack is flooding a particular user with a large number of messages. However, there are many tools that allow the hacker to accomplish the flood-attack. By the time victim realizes what has happened, the device may become unresponsive. Therefore, adding the attacking user accounts to the ignore list of the instant messenger may be very difficult.

While using a network, organizations should consider updating their networks to separate their internal IM traffic from Internet-based IM traffic

  • IM software Vulnerabilities

Just like any other software application, popular Instant messengers have a history of common security vulnerabilities. Installing an IM application may introduce new vulnerabilities to a Smartphone/desktop.

Enable real-time virus protection by using Antivirus

Instant Messaging brings a lot of opportunity for hackers when it comes to breaching security because more people are using this application for a lot of different purposes including transferring files. Multiple vulnerabilities have been discovered with others that are up and coming that allows hackers to easily gain remote access to your PC or mobile device.While there are many benefits while using Instant Messaging there are also security issues while using this application. Make sure you enjoy the benefits and use this application with caution.

While there are many benefits while using Instant Messaging there are also security issues while using this application. Make sure you enjoy the benefits and use this application with caution.

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