Gone are the good old days when mIRC used to be so popular that anyone with a computer connected to the Internet must log in to a chat channel to talk with people that they know or even to strangers. As time goes by, chatting on IRC has slowed down a lot and I hardly find any computers that I fix today that has mIRC installed. Today, most of us use instant messaging programs such as Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger to easily talk to our contacts in real time or even leave offline messages so that they can read the message when they get online.
Although instant messaging programs are commonly being used today, there are times that it won’t be possible to use if either party is not comfortable in revealing their account. One example is my previous server administrator that fully rely on ticketing system and they are slow in responding to it. On important task that involves down time, I want to be instantly notified when they’ve done their part so that I can immediately take over and do my part to reduce the downtime as much as possible. I certainly don’t want to be pressing the F5 key every 5 seconds to refresh the browser or configure AwayFind to notify me via voice call when there’s an update ticket. What I previously did was created a Meebo Me widget to a different domain and tell them to get access the special page so that can chat with me from their web browser without installing anything.
If you do not want to go through the hassle of installing the chat widget or is concerned about privacy, here are 2 quick and easy ways to create a secure and private chatroom.
Cryptocat is an open source project that allows you to instantly create a secure chatroom. First you will need to enter the channel chat name or you can click the question mark icon to automatically generate a random name. Click the Enter button, followed by your nickname and then need to type randomly on your keyboard for a few seconds. Now that you’re created private and secure chatroom, you can get people to join in by sending them the URL on your web browser. They will be required to enter their nickname and also typing randomly on the keyboard for a few seconds to join the chatroom.
It is possible to send files by clicking on the red colored file icon located at the top right. Type in the recipient name and select the images or zip file that you want to upload. Below is a short video demonstrating on how Cryptocat can make your online lives more private.
ChatStep works similarly to Cryptocat where you can create a secure and private chatroom. The good thing about ChatStep is you are able to set a password to prevent any unauthorized users to join the chatroom if they managed to guess the room name. You can only share images by dragging and dropping an image file to the chatroom. There are a few simple options located at the sidebar to enable or disable timestamp, setting your chat bubbles to the right and aligning them correctly, and turning on/off sound upon receiving a new message.
During testing, I found that ChatStep is much faster than Cryptocat in the sense that it is more responsive. The chat messages are received nearly instantly after sending while Cryptocat takes a few seconds. However, Cryptocat provides more privacy functionality such as the ability to send private messages to certain members or if you want to put certain members in exclusion list so that they can’t see what your public message.
Cryptocat automatically wipes the data after one hour of inactivity while ChatStep does not store anything on their servers. Both Cryptocat and ChatStep uses SSL encryption (HTTPS) to encrypt the data before they are sent out. Anything that you typed in the chatroom including sensitive information such as password will not be stolen when someone is sniffing the packets on the network. However SSL encryption will not protect what you type on your keyboard from a hardware or software keylogger. You will need third party tools such as KeyScrambler to protect against software keyloggers.
If you still prefer to chat from an IRC server, you can ask the other party to use an online IRC chat client called Mibbit to connect to the server and join the channel that you’re on using just their web browser without installing any software or plugin.