Can Instant Messanger be 'traced' by IT?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by MarkHastings, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Not that I'm worried, but I 'IM' with a freind (at work) and our conversations sometimes get a bit 'off-color'. Friday night, she was telling her husband about one of the jokes I said and he got concerned that her IM's may be 'monitored' by IT.

    Isn't IM a direct connection to and from each system? I know the programs have a special port through the firewall to do this, so it's not like email where her IT dept. can view incoming messages. Is this true??
     
  2. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    The traffic is not (normally) encrypted, meaning that anyone on the Net between you and your friend can use a so called sniffer to pick up the data packages and read everything you write.

    For any IT staff with access to the communications infrastructure directly it would be childs play to record anything you do online without encryption; web surfing, email (even web mail), IM... etc.

    As long as it is one-to-one communication between two parties I personally can't see the harm, but then again people can be disciplined or fired for the craziest reasons especially over in the US, I guess.

    One way to make it much much harder is if you and your friend both download the free version of Trillian. It is a multi-IM client that can handle MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, AIM... a very nice client at that. I use it myself.

    The reason you might like it is that it can open an encrypted IM session with another Trillian client. That would make you pretty safe from snooping. I think that only works if you use ICQ, though (but with Trillian you can use a whole slew of IM services if you wish.)
     
  3. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Thanks...I just checked and they don't make a Mac version. Oh well.
     
  4. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Cinematographer

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  5. Mike_J_Potter

    Mike_J_Potter Second Unit

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    Any traffic sent unencrypted through your company can easily and legally be read. Goto http://www.aimencrypt.com/ they have instructions and a certificate to encrypt aim chat, but both sides need to have it installed. I used to run it but no one else did so I never bothered to reinstall it.
     
  6. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Certain parts of our business negotiate price via IM, so we log it using IMLogic. We don't review it much, but it's there should we need it.

    Now the pager logs, that is funny stuff ! [​IMG] People obviously think when they alpha-page someone via Outlook it goes into the ether... NOT !
     
  7. Jeff Peake

    Jeff Peake Supporting Actor

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    what was the joke?
     
  8. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    Even if the messages themselves are encrypted, the traffic generated can be a tip off that on the clock yapping is taking place. Not the quantity of traffic, so much as the program info. For instance, our firewall logs which applications are initiating what kind of traffic. Here's part of a snapshot.

    [​IMG]

    Iexplore.exe is obviously Internet Explorer, but after that you'll see wmplayer.exe...realplay.exe...ypager.exe. Windows Media, Realplayer and Yahoo Instant Messenger, respectively along with Symantec Live Update and any other program that establishes a connection and how much it was used. From there it's really simple from there to find out which computer it came from.
     
  9. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    one other thing to consider is that, technically, you are using company property to do all this im'ing.

    the company can pretty much use that as an excuse if they want.
     
  10. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    Thanks guys. Again, I'm not worried about it, it's my friends butt, not mine. but she has been careful about what she types now. [​IMG] My company once had a "No IM'ing" policy and I was one of the lucky few 'exceptions' to the rule. I even got this distinction in an email from the president "...only Mark is allowed". [​IMG]
     
  11. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    As an IT guy for a decent sized company, and as others have said, if it's on your computer I can read it, enable it, disable it, etc. Encrypting might sound good, but most of the encryption standards these programs use are pretty weak and can be easily cracked by junior staff (most of them love the challenge), plus the other side of the coin is that if your IT guy starts to see a bunch of encrypted IM traffic across the network you are going to raise some eyebrows, which will put everything you do on your PC under scrutiny. For instance we run a fairly open ship here and only skim over usage logs looking for blatant issues. But when we find one, we basically capture every packet of data coming out of the PC and read every last bit of it.


    Most of the time with good reason, you should see some of the stuff people will do on a company PC. I can't imagine why people think it's a good idea to do some of that stuff.

    Andrew
     
  12. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    i hear ya.

    i recently heard a story about some IT guy who went to do repairs on this guys computer. when he popped the dvd drive open ... lo and behold ... a porno dvd! [​IMG]
     
  13. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    Like VPs who are the first ones to be hardasses about employees and inappropriate material on the Internet...and are also the first ones hitting porn sites after hours and on weekends. [​IMG]

    Gee...I have no idea what a website called Throbnet in our firewall logs could be about.

    VP...Der...ummmm...I cleared my history...no one knows a thing?
     
  14. Mike Voigt

    Mike Voigt Supporting Actor

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    Mark, that "privilege" can be retracted real fast if they see any non-work messaging - especially off-color stuff. Moreover, it can get you fired, depending on your company code of conduct. Be VERY careful, you are playing with fire. We have had some rather serious results because of people using their PCs (mostly laptops) for non-work related stuff.
     
  15. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Remember, it isn't just a matter of the company wanting to spoil your fun or even (horrors! [​IMG]) expecting employees to be doing productive work during work hours. In our sue-happy society companies have to worry about potential legal liability. So they increasingly feel the need to take preemptive action to protect themselves. They don't want to have to defend against a sexual harassment suit because someone at your friend's office was offended by an IM she (or he) happened to see while walking past your friend's PC. And there have been suits about just this sort of ridiculous thing.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  16. Chris Bardon

    Chris Bardon Cinematographer

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    I'm pretty sure that most IM sessions aren't encrypted, so it wouldn't be difficult to monitor traffic at the firewall end. There are actually a bunch of products out there (like the new Microsoft Live Communication Server) that use IM archiving as a feature (since for some companies it's a mandatory requirement).

    Personally, I don't think it's really anyone's business what you say to someone in a private conversation, whether it's on company time or not. Ditto for internet use, DVD drive use, whatever. As long as you're productive and not making anyone else uncomfortable, I say go nuts!
     
  17. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    But that's the rub, if you're watching a porno on your DVD player and somebody walks up and see's it, you will most likely offend them. Sending an IM to somebody should be harmless but people do all sorts of stupid things on them, everything from sending very off-color jokes to the wrong people to having steamy sex-chats (which then other co-workers will see), etc.

    I can't think of a single IT department that wants to spend time reading all that crap and wasting time monitoring it, but the cost of one sexual harassment lawsuit can put many businesses out of business. One e-mail addressed to the wrong person(s) can kill business relationships, etc.

    Our company killed IM traffic because of the virus problem, despite constant reminders to never click links/email attachements unless they are 100% positive they know what it's for, users would still do it. And one time it led to a virus infection that brought half the PC's in the office down, it took two hours to trace the problem and isolate the machines, another 2 hours to find a solution to the problem and then 20-30 minutes per PC to clean it all up (when we were about 90% finished the major AV companies finally posted info on the virus we got). The company lost high-5/low-6 figures of money because of that one problem.

    Andrew
     
  18. Paul Padilla

    Paul Padilla Supporting Actor

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    One company I did outsource work for had a group of guys who were constantly trying to get away with crap. Without even looking for it I found that they had figured out how to use Windows NT & 2000 built in protocol NETSEND. Browsing through the event viewer looking for error messages I found a conversation regarding the ample proportions of a female coworker. They thought they were being completely sly.

    In a similar fashion I stumbled upon 11 Gigabytes worth of MP3 files stored on one of their hard drives. The had set up their own personal file sharing network using Winamp.

    A. I can guarantee that the MP3s were pirated and company equipment was used in the process potentially putting the company at risk.

    B. How much company bandwidth did they use to download that much material?

    C. How much time did they spend screwing around setting it up and playing with it?

    This same company lost their DSL provider at one point and at the time it was taking 30 days to get new service set up. Lucky for me it was one of their direct employees that dropped the ball on that one. Management was shocked to find out that this group of CAD designers' productivity more than doubled during that 30 days. Needless to say they were cut off from the Internet as soon as the company got a new provider. From then on if this group required Internet access for any information they had to go to a central workstation in full view to get what they needed.

    The point is it can only take one red flag to bring the "Internet is evil" wrath of management.
     
  19. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    well, you may not offend them ... more likely you'll stop any productivity in the office as everyone gathers round.

    ----

    but seriously, porno at work? i mean, you can't wait 8 hours until you get home? wtf? [​IMG]
     
  20. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    Some people are generally clueless about the ramifications. People not double/triple checking email addresses before sending something that would be deemed inappropriate, friends talking with other friends (who happen to work for competitors) about information that would be classed as "private", and then all the normal things you would think would be wrong.

    Some of the problems have gotten better in the past few years because of the availability of broadband, so people downloading to add to their movie/porn/music collections has gone down because they can do it at home.

    Andrew
     

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