Zone Labs moves to secure instant messaging

Zone Labs is to target consumers and small businesses by securing instant messaging on the desktop instead of the server, with...

Zone Labs is to target consumers and small businesses by securing instant messaging on the desktop instead of the server, with the launch of its IMsecure Pro 1.0, its first step into the fledgling market for IM security.

Expansion to the enterprise arena is planned for later this year, said Fred Felman, vice president of marketing at Zone Labs.

Installed on the PC, IMsecure Pro sits between a user's IM client and the public messaging networks. It scans IM traffic and blocks malicious code and spam. The product also encrypts messages sent between IMsecure users and allows users to set rules on outgoing messages and block features such as file transfers and voice and video chats.

IMsecure Pro supports the IM networks used by Yahoo's Messenger, Microsoft's MSN Messenger and America Online's Instant Messenger. Any client sending messages across any of these three networks is supported, including IM consolidators such as Trillian and EasyMessage.

IMsecure Pro will cost $19.95. A free, dressed-down version of the product for personal and non-profit users will be available by the end of the month.

On the enterprise side, Zone Labs will include IM security in a new version of its Integrity enterprise security software bundle due out later this year. Integrity will offer the same core functionality as the consumer IMsecure product but with added features such as client management and policy enforcement.

Although there have not been many high-profile attacks using IM and the amount of spam on the networks is limited, the use of public IM networks poses a security threat, especially in businesses, said Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Security .

"I think we are early in the process of threats. I would expect the viruses and worms will heat up, but right now I don't see them as a huge issue. Right now it comes to rogue applications, network usage and securing of confidential information. Most of the apparent security challenges are on the enterprise side," he said.

Zone Labs is not alone in the IM security space, though many of the other suppliers have an enterprise-only focus and take a server-based approach. A key feature most other vendors offer is logging of messages, a regulatory requirement in the financial services industry.

Zone Labs does not offer logging and has no plans to develop its own logging technology. "Our product is ideal for environments where there are no legislative requirements and you want to utilize the public infrastructure safely," said Felman, adding that the company may provide a link to third-party logging products.

Players in the IM security space with server-based products include IMLogic, Akonix Systems and FaceTime Communications. IM-Age Software offers client-based software but is developing a server-based product to complement its desktop product.

Zone Labs obtained the IM security technology by acquiring IMsecure about two months ago.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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