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Gartner: tread carefully as IM doors swing open

Analyst group Gartner has warned its customers to take extra security precautions as companies such as IBM and Microsoft begin allowing federated access to both corporate and public instant messaging services.Last year, Yahoo and MSN said that users of their respective messenger services would be able to communicate with each other.
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor
Analyst group Gartner has warned its customers to take extra security precautions as companies such as IBM and Microsoft begin allowing federated access to both corporate and public instant messaging services.

Last year, Yahoo and MSN said that users of their respective messenger services would be able to communicate with each other. In late January, IBM said it would allow users of its Lotus SameTime instant messaging (IM) application to access both AOL and Yahoo's messenger services. This morning, Google said it had combined Gmail with Gmail Chat, which is also likely to eventually connect with other messenger systems.

In a research note published on Gartner's Web site last week, the analyst firm said that businesses should deploy 'hygene' services in order to protect their corporate messenger users from the public messenger networks.

"There is no longer any excuse for not adopting corporate IM. But businesses should establish policies for connecting with external parties, to ensure public IM services are used for real business purposes," said the research note, which was published by research analyst Milind Govekar.

Govekar especially focussed on Lotus Sametime, which will soon be able to connect with more than 70 million AOL, ICQ and Apple iChat messenger users.

"Hygiene services such as those from IMlogic, FaceTime Communications and Akonix Systems must be installed before connecting Sametime to public IM services, just as they are for port 25 Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) messages. The risks are the same. Adding hygiene services will cost at least US$10 per user," said Govekar.

Instant-messaging service users are being hit with more worm and malicious code attacks than ever before. Late last year, IMLogic said that the number of threats detected for IM and peer-to-peer networks rose 3,295 percent in a year. Around the same time, analyst house IDC published research that found businesses were sending around one billion IMs every day between 28 million enterprise users.

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