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ScanSafe Intros IM Security Management

2006-03-20 - internetnews.com

By Ed Sutherland

Instant messaging is a popular way for workers to communicate. It is also gaining popularity as a way for attackers to spread viruses, according to ScanSafe, the latest firm looking to secure enterprise IM.

ScanSafe IM Control, announced today, marks instant messaging's evolution to arranging business deals and swapping corporate data, according to Dan Nadir, ScanSafe's vice president of product strategy.

ScanSafe began in 2004 offering companies managed security of e-mail. But hobbled by the avalanche of spam, viruses, phishing and other obstacles, workers have increasingly turned to IM, said Nadir.

With 90 percent of businesses using Yahoo, AOL or MSN instant messaging clients, IM has also become a fertile ground for virus writers. Not only have IM-based viruses skyrocketed 400 percent over last year, attacks can take just 0.6 seconds to spread.

While it improves business productivity, IM use also leads to "serious security risks, including unintentional disclosure of confidential information and malicious attacks," said Nadir in a statement.

Earlier this month, Symantec reported two IM worms spreading across Microsoft and AOL instant messaging networks. The worms - "Hotmaton" and "Maniccum" - erased files and disabled security.

Akonix Systems, which powers ScanSafe's IM Control, reported finding 12 IM attacks in February. Symantec has said it plans to acquire IMLogic, a company offering IM security software for businesses.

The IM.GifCom.All worm appeared during the holiday season targeting IM users.

It presented users with a chat message with a URL to a Santa Claus site. But instead of jolly St. Nick, IM users received a keylogger capable of recording credit card numbers, passwords and other personal information. The worm additionally attempted to disable anti-virus software and connect to the Internet.

With concerns high, Nadir said companies began blocking workers' access to IM. By November 2005, ScanSafe saw a 600 percent increase in firms blocking IM. But with the popularity of IM growing, blocking just won't work, said Nadir. Managing IM security is the answer, according to ScanSafe.

The company is pitching managed IM security, unlike Akonix, IMLogic, FaceTime Communications and other security vendors selling boxes and other gear. Instead of going through a customer's own system, IM conversations are routed to ScanSafe.

While large enterprises may be equipped to handle IM security in-house, "IM Control is ideal for smaller companies," said Nadir. He said for companies needing convincing, ScanSafe offers a free trial, according to Nadir.

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