IM Popularity Creates Security Risk

The proliferation of IM technology in business means new threats-and new opportunity for security vendors and VARs.

For some, instant messaging offers a convenient alternative to running between cubicles or floors; for others, it can provide a vital connection with customers; and for others it can be a nifty office socializing method.

Regardless of the reason, IM (instant messaging) has become a common method of communications in businesses nationwide.

With its proliferation, IM technology has opened a back door for viruses, worms and other threats to enter business networks.

At the same time, it has created a new market for security VARs looking to provide their clients total network security.

"Its already happening, but in the next few years you will consider IM a basic part of your infrastructure," said Francis Costello, chief technology officer at Akonix Systems Inc., an IM security vendor. "You will consider security for that technology something you wouldnt do without."

IM is now considered an integral tool for companies to use to communicate with employees, open direct links with potential customers and maintain customer support. But it is also a new channel by which malicious software can enter a system.

Akonix, of San Diego, Calif., is one of a handful of companies now making IM security software designed to monitor, filter and block instant messages from business networks. But the market is growing, and Costello said he expects to see an explosion in opportunity for vendors and VARs in the next few months.

"Its the next big thing," said Brian Deeley, general manager of Graymar Business Solutions Inc., a health care and public sector VAR in Timonium, Md. "E-mail security is so prevalent, the viruses and worms are going somewhere else to find a way into your system. Youre starting to see problems already."

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