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Some merchants provide the ability to chat over the web for customer service or help.

Are there any risks in using these online chat channels? If so, what are the primary risks? Can the chat website view any of our private information, and if so, what? Also, is it secure to share private and confidential information on those chat channels?

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If so, then what protection measures can be used to overcome this problem? –  Salman Dec 26 '12 at 4:59

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This question is too vague to answer accurately.

An website that is not known to you could potentially be the most secure website on the net that offers a chat feature in a very secure and privacy aware way. Or vice-versa: its chat feature might have poor security.

There are too many variables. The popularity of a website doesn't equate to its level of vulnerability, nor its ability to view your private information.

Could a web based chat client be vulnerable and be a gateway into a root shell to your computer and all of its data? Possibly.

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"Could a web based chat client be...a gateway into a root shell to your computer?" - Only if your browser is vulnerable. In this respect, using web-based chat is no more risky than visiting any other web site. –  D.W. Dec 26 '12 at 7:59

This is indeed a complex question, but here's a brief set of answers:

Are there any risks in using these online chat channels?

Whenever anything is implemented over the Web, there are always risks associated. One of the risks you will encounter with chats sessions for uses as described is information confidentiality.

If so, what are the primary risks?

Information confidentiality. I have had cases in the past when, while chatting with an agent to resolve an issue I had, he/she accidentally posted private information related to a different customer.

Can the chat website view any of our private information, and if so, what?

This will depend on how the chat service is implemented. There are applications out there that would take care of some of this problems for you, if you decide to use them.

Also, is it secure to share private and confidential information on those chat channels?

Simply put, no. Again, information control would play a role on what the support analyst is capable of viewing, and disclosing.

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