I’ve got a couple of questions about chat rooms and computer security, and I’m hoping that someone here can fill me in.
I’ve never been in a chat room, but I’ve occasionally seen references to the SD chat room. I thought I’d try it, but when I was setting it up (got the address from Opal’s page) my browser said that this was a “high security risk” or some such thing.
So, is it likely that I’ll get hacked by connecting to a chat room, or is that just the folks at Microsoft covering their derrieres with a warning?
Also, how does a chat room work - is it real time? is there a permanent record, like the threads, or does it get erased at some point?
And finally, what sort of mindless orgies go on in the chat-room? What am I missing out on?
While you’re connected to the Internet, it’s possible you can get hacked at any time. Being in chat can - repeat, CAN - accelerate this possibility. In Internet Relay Chat, which is the massive chat thingy that most people chat on (and where the not-affiliated-with-the-SDMB room can be accessed), there’s such a thing as DCC, which is a way for people in chat rooms to exchange files, such as pictures of themselves, etc. This is one way in which people attempt to hack; they’ll give you a file you don’t want. But hey! Don’t accept it unless you know damn well what it is, and you’ll be ok. Just like e-mail!
There are other ways for people to hack others, I’m sure, but I’m sure experts following me can elucidate.
Yes, a chat room is real time. However, depending on how stable your Internet connection, there can be what’s known as ‘lag’; that is, you could see something on your screen a few seconds after it was typed, rather than instantaneously.
There is no actual permanent record, as far as I know. While in a chat room on IRC, you can “log” the room, which means you can record everything that’s said in any room you’re in. But once you leave the room or are disconnected, the log stops. There is no omnipotent being taping all that’s said. I think.
Now, since it’s not permanent, you also wonder how far back you can ‘see’ in a room. Each room fills up much of the screen, and you type your entry in a box at the bottom. When the screen is filled up, you can simply scroll up to see what was said earlier. This’ll work for only a finite time period; then the earliest stuff is overwritten.
Mindless Orgies can be found, but the vast majority of chat rooms (and I’ve been in them for over 4 years now) fall into two categories: Cool People Like You and Me and Dumbass Kids Who Are Either Hacking Or Looking For Porn, Sometimes Both. Naturally, there’s some overlap between those categories!
Let me guess: You were trying to access the chat room via the Java applet over at OpalCat’s page? In order to do something like IRC chat, a Java applet needs to be given permission to do things like connect with the Internet, and maybe access your hard drive in some way. An unscrupulous programmer could do all sorts of nasty things with those permissions, so your web browser asks if you’re sure. It comes down to a question of whether you trust Opal that the program on her page is just a Java applet, rather than a trojan horse. You’re not at any particular danger from anyone other than Opal, or whoever it was who wrote the program.
If you’re planning on taking up chat regularly, you’ll probably want to get a program specifically for IRC, rather than a Java applet. The most popular is mIRC, which is easier to use than most applets and offers a host of extra features.
mIRC’s a very good one, and the most popular, and another way-cool one (the one I use) is Pirch98.
Chronos is right, of course, and you’d find the same kind of message if you go to a site that requires that you have Flash to view the page. It’s a great safety precaution on the part of your browser, and I think it gives you the option in that message box to “trust all content from Company X” or something like that, too. This way, if you go to Yahoo and use the chat applet there, after it loads the thing in once, it won’t ask you next time if trusting Yahoo was such a neat idea.