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Security Engineering

IM Security

Many of us could easily remember that, there were different online chat platforms before networking websites or even before MSN and Skype; ICQ is one them. “ICQ could be defined as a type of multiuser domain (MUD) and type of text based virtual reality”. (Zenobia C. Y. Chan, 2009)

Back in days, emailing, web surfing and ICQ were 3 most popular things people were doing online. First version of ICQ released in 1996 and it spread to internet society rapidly. It was allowing people to contact with each other without using any browsers. Before fast internet connections that we have now, using browsers were creating a little problem. Browser applications weren’t fast enough as they needed to download each page every time when a user wants to send or see a message (There wasn’t Ajax) or using Java based applications weren’t easy on each computer as it might get computer slow down.

Popularity of ICQ has also brought some security problems. For example, ICQ was creating peer  to peer connection in between their users rather than using its own servers. That revealed it’s users IP address and made their users vulnerable against network based attacks (nuke etc.). Having IP addresses visible by other users also created privacy problems as if a user were connecting from somewhere with a static IP address, other might have found out user’s location without their knowledge (Internet cafés or school labs). ICQ also allows file transfer. There are still many people who are online with no proper anti virus or firewall software. According to German high-tech association BITKOM, still 18% of internet users are not using any anti virus or firewalls. ( Its not hard to say that, average was higher back in days when ICQ was more popular. Therefore file transfer is another issue that ICQ users were facing as some people were sending executable files with JPEG or GIF icons and pretending that its their photo. Apart from technical issues ICQ is used by variety of people and faking identity is not hard on it as it’s a text based platform. This makes anyone communicate with others inappropriate way (for examples any old adults could communicate with under age people with pretending that they are around same age, or could fool them with giving them false information e.g. they are from police or ICQ administration and they need user’s password / credit card number or bank details)

ICQ (and other platforms) has changed its technology and now all message traffic go through over ICQ server, it stops other seeing user’s information. Some of the instant messenger services are also using their own servers for file transfer in between users rather than peer – to – peer transfer.


‘Almost one in five surfers use either antivirus or firewall’ (2012), ‘’ [Online], available from viewed 9 June 2012

Chan, Z, & Cheuk, W 2009, ‘An Exploratory Study on Adolescents’ Experiences of Using ICQ (I Seek You)’, Qualitative Report, 14, 1, pp. 1-19, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 June 2012.

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