Private Instant Messaging

Individuals rely on private instant messaging (IM) to ensure that conversations are not accessed by third parties. To ensure a high level of security, many people are adding encrypted instant messaging software or plug-ins to their IM provider application. Instant messaging is a quick and easy way of communicating with someone else without making a telephone call. As long as both individuals are at their computers or using a mobile device equipped with IM features, the two can chat away by typing messages to one another. The messages are sent and received as quickly as the data can fly through virtual space via the internet connection. Practically all the major email providers, including the free ones, offer IM as one of the featured services so that the option to have these types of chats is available to anyone with a computer. The only thing that an individual has to do is open an account by registering a unique username and password with the IM provider. Naturally, this is a popular way for tweens and teens to communicate with each other. But the business world also enjoys the benefits of quick communication through instant messaging.

For those in the corporate world, though, IM chats also have some pitfalls. Many businesses use various monitoring mechanisms to ensure that employees aren't sending out messages that contain privileged or confidential information, such as new product launches, innovative technologies, or the secret ingredient of a highly-guarded cookie recipe. Another concern that business management faces is the possibility that one employee will harass another through the use of IM chats. To protect the company's confidential information and avoid the possibilities of lawsuits, management is advised to develop strong instant messaging guidelines that are written down in an employee handbook. For those times when confidential information needs to be shared in a chat, management can utilize encrypted instant messaging applications to ensure as much privacy as possible.

An instant messenger client usually offers three components as part of the marketing and publicity for a private instant messaging application. These are security, authenticity, and deniability. The first component, security, means that the received message is exactly as it was sent. The receiver knows that it has not been modified by a third party, but is the exact message that the sender transmitted. The second component, authenticity, means that the receiver knows that the sender is the person he believes her to be and not a third person masquerading as the sender. The third component, deniability, means that a digital signature is not included with the message. To understand this component, it's important to know that the major IM providers attach a digital signature with each instant message a person sends using their application. Technological experts have the capability of matching a digital signature, with great accuracy, to the person who sent the message. This can be important in matters of court litigation. By using a private instant messaging feature that includes the deniability component, the sender is able to transmit a message that does not include a digital signature. With no digital signature, the message cannot be reliably traced back to the sender. The sender, if he is dishonest, can deny sending the message.

Many businesses and some other individuals, such as those involved in law enforcement or government security, often have a legitimate need for using encrypted instant messaging when sending and receiving IMs. The proprietary secrets of a company, the investigation of money-laundering schemes, and our country's national security may require that instant messages be protected from the prying eyes of a third party. The writer of Proverbs wrote about those who told things they shouldn't. He said: "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Proverbs 11:13) and "Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war. He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips" (Proverbs 20:18-19). It's easy to see that there are many reasons why a person would want to have a plug-in or application that protects the messages that are sent and received and authenticates the identification of the person with whom one is chatting.

Many IM clients offer private instant messaging plug-ins that allows even casual conversations to be encrypted. A free plug-in that can be easily downloaded, even for just a single conversation, can be utilized for impromptu privacy. For such purposes, the individuals only need to be concerned that they choose an IM client that supports the program they are using. The plug-in may simply scramble the sent messages and descramble the received messages. The encryption will be at a level that makes the messages difficult, but not impossible, to decipher. Businesses or government agencies that require a higher level of confidentiality, for either chats between employees or between employees and customers, will want to utilize the services of an IM client that can provide a top-notch level of confidentiality that includes all three components (security, authentication, and deniability). Management needs to be aware of the positive aspects of the client's product and also the limitations. For example, it may be possible for a virus or for a hacker to modify archived messages unless a specific feature is utilized to prevent such modifications. An encrypted instant messaging application that provides a high degree of security, authenticity, and deniability will be most favored by businesses and government agencies with highly valuable proprietary and top-secret information.

Instant Messaging Services

Instant messaging services provide a great way to connect with friends, family, and business associates quickly, easily, and conveniently. These applications are free, easy to download and access, and are usually very safe when used with caution and prudence. Someone might use instant messaging (IM) to keep up with old high school friends, talk to relatives who live far away, communicate with coworkers, or even meet new people online. Users can have conversations in real-time, avoiding the hassle of waiting for an e-mail response or initiating a phone call; plus, many programs allow users to share files and photos, speak voice-to-voice, and see each other over webcam technology. This is an inexpensive, fun way to keep up to date on loved one's lives and to maintain contact over long distances.

There are many different IM programs out there, giving interested persons a vast array of options, so how does a person decide which IM service is best for her particular needs and interests? The first thing to know is which instant messaging services one's friends and family members are using because downloading an application is pointless if nobody else in one's acquaintance uses the same IM service. If friends seem to be using many different services, a good solution is to download software that allows connection with multiple IM types at once, which will allow communication with most of one's online friends. This is much more convenient and simple than downloading two or more applications, which will clutter up one's tool bar and, even worse, slow down computer speed. Also, before downloading an application, one should be sure to check its compatibility with her computer capabilities to ensure that her computer meets the IM system requirements.

As social interaction becomes more and more technology based, it is becoming increasingly popular for Christians to meet each another over the Internet, with Christian instant messaging as a prominent means. Whether used by teens looking for other Christians their own age to support them in their walk of faith, adult singles hoping to form romantic connections with those of their own religious orientation, or just ordinary people wanting to talk about Christianity, these applications provide safe, anonymous means for doing so. In our global age, connecting with people of other nationalities and seeking to communicate with and understand people from all cultures and nations is important, and instant messaging services make this a real possibility. Christians can talk to those of like faith living in North America, South America, and on every other continent, which enables them to expand their cultural awareness and to see the way their religion functions in every society. This can be an excellent way to keep up with friends made at church camp, on mission trips, or in college, or to meet new Christian friends all over the world.

Online chatting can be fun and perhaps even spiritually beneficial, opening up conversations that can promote understanding, tolerance, and solidarity and can encourage, challenge, and comfort. Sometimes just knowing that someone else in a completely different part of the country or world is going through the same life situations and understands one's difficulties can be very helpful. Christian fellowship is certainly not limited to church and faith gatherings, but can happen just about anywhere--even over the Internet. However, even Christian instant messaging is not 100% safe, and users should keep in mind that just because a person says that he loves Jesus and goes to church does not mean that he is trustworthy, and users should not give out any personal information such as full names, addresses, place of work or school, phone numbers, social security numbers, or credit card numbers to a person over IM. Although most applications have some level of security, they are not entirely safe from hackers, therefore one can never be too cautious when using instant messaging services, even when communicating with a known individual.

When using Christian instant messaging or any other online chat, users should keep in mind that they will encounter a wide array of people with varying beliefs, practices, and ways of viewing faith and the world. It is tempting, when one is able to share her opinions anonymously, to be pushy, dogmatic, or even belligerent about politics, social issues, or religious conduct, but this should be strictly avoided, as it is a sure way to turn those of no faith or other faiths off to Christianity and to distort another person's image of Jesus and the church. Paul's letter to the Colossians offers wise advice for any person using an IM application: "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:5-6). IM or chat can be a wonderful way to help those who are confused or spiritually searching to learn about God's love, but they should not be used as a personal soap box, from which one can blast everyone who is not a Christian. Persons of faith would be wise to type words of kindness, compassion, and encouragement, showing humility and respect.

It is exciting to think about all the possibilities instant messaging services offer. A person can use IM at work to discuss problems with coworkers, ask a boss a quick question, plan a meeting time, and avoid excessive interruption. Family members living far away from one another can share pictures and other files, speak voice-to-voice, and even see beloved faces over video. Long-lost friends who download the same program can find each other simply by searching for each other's names or e-mail addresses and adding one another as IM contacts. Followers of Jesus all over the world can have meaningful conversations, form new friendships, and perhaps even find a spouse by using Christian instant messaging, all of which are excellent uses for online technology.





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