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IM given security and corporate features boost

A range of instant messaging (IM) products has been launched this week that offer the boasting advanced security and administration features demanded by business organisations.

Smaller vendors such as WiredRed Software, Omnipod and Akonix Systems are fortifying IM with security tools and reporting features that are largely absent from popular public services from the likes of America Online, Microsoft, and Yahoo!

Many large companies are considering how to satisfy staff demands for IM, according to Matt Cain, vice-president at the research firm Meta Group. So far, many have made do with public services such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) or Microsoft MSN Messenger.

"These systems are typically insecure, with no user authentication, no encryption, auditing, or archiving," Cain said. "They are also outside the control of central IT and can bring in destructive payloads like worms and viruses. Most organisations are looking for some alternative to these public mail networks."

One vendor targeting the enterprise is US-based WiredRed, which has launched the e/pop Audit and Reporting Server.

Designed for use with the e/pop Enterprise Server 3.0 IM system, the Audit and Reporting Server can capture data from the messaging system, which may be needed to meet regulatory compliance requirements.

The server records information such as remote administration logs, presence, user status, date, time, message content, and "to" and "from" data, according to WiredRed. In addition, administrators can generate reports using the server's built-in data mining functionality.

Reporting features include creation, management, and query, as well as wizards for data mining. The captured data also can be exported to Microsoft SQL, Access, Excel, and Oracle databases.

Omnipod this week released Professional Online Desktop (POD) 2.0, a hosted, secure IM and file-sharing system for intranet and extranet environments. POD offers centrally controlled file sharing, allowing documents and folders of any size or type to be shared, transferred, stored, and backed up in a secure environment. The system also features log-based audit trails and access control levels to meet business needs.

IM security is also being addressed by Akonix Systems, which later this month plans to roll out Akonix L7, a perimeter security gateway designed to protect corporate networks against so-called rogue protocols used by public IM and peer-to-peer file-sharing services.

In addition, IMpasse Systems this week introduced Version 1.0 of its IM privacy and security software designed to inject a layer of security into public IM services including AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.

IMpasse 1.0 is a lightweight IM encryption gateway that uses 3072-bit modulus RSA encryption for automatic key exchange and 448-bit CBC mode Blowfish encryption for conversations, according to Chris Matteo, Impasse president.

Heavyweights are also responding to the growing enterprise appetite for secure IM. In February, Microsoft announced a licensing agreement with IMlogic to embed IM archiving technology into future versions of its enterprise IM products.

IMlogic's archiving system offers the ability to record, index, search and audit IM messages, but Microsoft has not yet announced specific products or release dates.

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