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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I just have a simple question really:

Is there any legal way for someone to access what is being written in instant messages? I ask this because a friend has had this problem with someone accessing the content of messages (or at least, this other person claims to be able to do this). I want to reassure my friend that their messages are not being accessed in the way this other person claims. Or... be able to tell my friend that this activity is illegal, so it can be stopped.

Thanks
 

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It is defintely possible to track the content of instant messages. I don't know which IM client you use, but this about sums it up.

Add-ons/Plug-ins: In AIM for sure, you can install third party software that logs every message

Remote Access: if this is happening in the work place or a controlled environment, administrators could very possibly have installed "spying" software that allows them to access a computer and "see" the screen as if they were on it. They could track IM's in real time

Keyloggers: Hidden in the background, they track all keystrokes. While I dont think that they could see waht the other person wrote, they could certainly see your friends responses.

Desktop Search Engine-like Googles, has the ability to index IM conversations

Other Malicious Software/Spyware/Trojans/Hacking etc.

Of this, Remote Access, Monitoring Software, Keyloggers, Desktop Engine, and Plug-ins are all possibly legal, depending on the situation. At work, employers have more or less the right to do whatever they want with their computers.

And I'm probably forgetting some. Not to sound creepy or anything, NO ONE is anonymous on the Internet, nor is anything truly private.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So... in a home based environment, such a thing is probably illegal. Very interesting.

Looks like my friend needs an investigator and/or attorney.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Trillian eh? How is Trillian going to prevent such issues? Is it because it is network independent? What about Miranda messenger?

Sounds like my friend needs to run some serious anti-hacker-ware here. Who knows what could be lurking?

Thanks

Oh yeah... almost forgot... What about a web-based messenger?

Thanks again
 

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Remember, some of the techniques I described are all possible through hacking or remote access. My suggestion is to download a good firewall (ZoneAlarm is my preference) and set the security to high for everything. Make sure you have your alerts on. That way, if any "amateur" tries to get in, you wil get a notificiaion and an IP address. You might not be able to go to any websites, but it might be worth it for a day or two to see which IP keeps attacking you.

I am not sure what difference Trillian would make...maybe someone else does. I can't comment on Miranda, having never used. However, like I said earlier, any communication across the web, web-based or not, can be intercepted. Zone Alarm Security Suite, I know, allows you to encrypt your messages and tweak some settings.

Run the usual spyware stuff, anti virus, trojan removers...all that.
A crude but effective solution would be to simply disconnect the modem for long periods of inactivity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Encrypted messaging eh? Sweet!

Of course, that still wouldn't save you from a keylogger though. Hmmm... I wonder what is the best way to check for a keylogger...
 

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Most keyloggers will be picked up by anti-spyware apps and anti-virus apps. Identifying all running processes in Task Manager will help if one is running. (It is possible to hide an application to prevent its being seen in Task Manager, but the method of doing so is secret and few keyloggers are hidden in this way.)

If a trojan/logger is present, it will sooner or later need to access the internet to send out its payload. Your firewall logs and alerts should let you know of anything suspicious. If it may have inadvertently been given permission, remove all apps from the firewall's permissions and start filtering them again as they ask for internet access.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
What if this trojan/logger is only meant to keep a record on the host computer? Could something like this be detected with an app like "hijack this"?
 

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Only if something is sent out does it appear in the firewall. Otherwise, it should show up with one of the anti-spyware apps. But HijackThis and Autoruns should detect it---it has to be started somehow.
 
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