You may not know this, but when you use instant messenger, you are essentially chatting with the world. Now, for most topics, who cares. But, if you are chatting about something highly sensitive and private, you could be screwed. That’s because anyone can simply eavesdrop on that conversation. I’m fairly certain that you don’t want that in those circumstances. Let’s look at a few of your options for securing instant messenger conversations.
By far, the most popular way to do this is by using a plugin called “Off The Record” or OTR. What OTR allows you to do is send any instant messaging stream encrypted. Why is this important? Well, from a basic standpoint, it is important simply to secure the stream so that snoopers can’t look at it. But more than that, it keeps conversations used by things like Google and AIM from being siffed through. Yep, unfortunately, in our day and age, those records can be looked through by your government. Now, that isn’t my first concern, but it’s just something you need to be made aware of. If you are that paranoid, then you shouldn’t be using cell phones, etc. But let’s not get freakish – okay?
Anyway, to use OTR, you will have to use an IM client, like Adium or Pidgin, that supports it. Once you get it though, it is easy to use. And then you can have peace of mind and chat about things like credit cards, sensitive health issues, etc. For some people, this is too much to set up. In that case, I would recommend privy talks.
Privy Talks is a super simple to use 2 way chat room that features 512 RSA encryption. Simply enter the chat room and it generates the RSA Key, fingerprint, and a unique url for the room. Give that url to the person you want to chat with. Once they enter, verify their fingerprint via text or some other communication. If it matches, you’re good to go.
I would highly recommend that you encrypt all your IM traffic, but that’s me. When in doubt, encrypt it. Happy chatting!