Secure Instant Messages

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Instant messaging is wildly popular but not necessarily secure. For worried messagers, Zone Labs--maker of the reliable ZoneAlarm personal firewall--now offers IMsecure Pro software. In my tests of a shipping copy, the $20 IMsecure Pro kept unwanted and dangerous messages at bay, albeit with a few kinks.

IMsecure Pro supports such popular IM clients as AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and my favorite universal client, Trillian--but not ICQ or IRC. (There also is a free basic IMsecure program.)

It's easy to figure out how to tweak the default settings in Zone Labs' IMsecure Pro software to suit your IM security needs.
The downloaded software, which took only four mouse clicks to install, is easy to use. Like ZoneAlarm, IMsecure Pro has an uncluttered layout: tabs along the left, descriptive text on each screen, and a large Stop button at the top to quickly shut down a session.

Along the same lines as a firewall, to work properly IMsecure Pro must be running before you start an IM chat session. I especially liked the software's "ID lock," which blocked me from inadvertently sending any personal information during a chat session; this feature would also stop a Trojan horse from doing the same thing. IMsecure's Spam Blocker, which blocked and logged unsolicited chat messages, was another favorite.

Using IMsecure to look at both incoming and outgoing messages of an IM conversation encrypted the chats I engaged in, even if the other chatter used a different IM program with IMsecure. I enjoyed being able to allow or deny file transfers, voice, and video to the people who were sending me messages, and to add a password to lock security settings if someone else were to use my computer.

IMsecure Pro's defaults performed well, but when I ratcheted the program up to High for added security, the software repeatedly sent notes to my IM buddies and me saying that potentially harmful content had been removed from each sent and received IM. But none of the IMs struck me as harmful, and the constant reminders got a little tedious. Resetting to Medium put an end to the incessant warnings.

Zone Labs IMsecure Pro

A reasonably priced, must-have tool for security-minded IM users; no support for IRC and ICQ chat.
Price when reviewed: $20
Current prices (if available)

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At a Glance
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