Tencent plans to introduce an IP encryption policy in its instant messaging software QQ to better protect the privacy and information security of its users.

A representative from Tencent's security center told local media that with this new encryption technology, users of the official version of QQ will not need to worry about their IP addresses being illegally intercepted. At the same time, the users can decide whether to open their location information to their friends or not. The encryption will be completed in the first half of November 2008.

The move is an important part of Tencent's security project. Starting from the beginning of 2008, Tencent's security action consists of two parts: Tianjian and Tiandun. The Tianjian action mainly focuses on cooperating with the Chinese law enforcement departments to fight the various Internet criminal behaviors while the Tiandun action aims to provide an overall protection to the information and virtual property of users.

The IP address, the unique identification of a user on the Internet, enables websites to provide users with customized services. However, it also brings a security risk. On one hand, every IP address represents a certain location. Therefore, people who have malicious intentions can get the actual addresses of the Internet users through intercepting the IP addresses, which directly harms the privacy of the users or even endangers their safety. On the other hand, if the IP addresses are intercepted by hackers, they may attack the computers of these users, gain control of these computers, steal sensitive information or implant trojan viruses.

Tencent says that the company has done a lot to protect the information of users. For account security, the company has implemented various measures, including launching the second-generation password protection system, integrating the QQ Doctor in the QQ client to regularly check and kill QQ number theft trojans and malicious software; offering a soft keyboard for users to enter their passwords; and optimizing the account system to help users retain their accounts and relevant information if their accounts are stolen.

For privacy protection, the dialogs between QQ users are processed with encryption methods. Even though the information is intercepted by other people, they can only get garbled characters.

Tencent's rival Skype has had security issues of its own in recent weeks in China. News emanating from a report issued last month from the University of Toronto says that Skype's partner in China, Tom Online, has both been monitoring messages and has been storing archived users' messages in encrypted files on publicly-accessible servers. Skype has confirmed this invasion of privacy.

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