Viruses and spam won't halt IM use

Benefits outweigh risks and email will always be worse...

Benefits outweigh risks and email will always be worse...

Despite a growing number of IM-borne menaces such as viruses and unsolicited messages, businesses must not be put off rolling out the technology across the organisation, because the pros far outweigh the cons, says an IM gateway provider.

Kailash Ambwani, president and CEO of secure IM gateway provider FaceTime, denies his business will be hampered by a 'once bitten twice shy' aversion to IM based on companies' previous bad experiences with email.

According to Ambwani, there are currently 115 viruses in the wild which exploit IM as part of a blended, or "multi-modal" attack. He added that IM spam, or 'spim', is a growing problem but insists neither threat undermines the potential of IM to streamline business processes and improve internal communication. Also, he argues, neither makes IM close to being as problematic as email.

Ambwani told "Of course there are security risks which come with IM, but so what? That is a fact of life. You just have to make sure that when you deploy a solution you do so with the right security in place."

"Email has been plagued with problems but nobody ever says they are going to turn off email," added Ambwani. "With IM as with email the business benefits far outweigh the risks."

Earlier this year UK bookie Betfair became one of the first companies to announce a concerted move in-house from email to IM.

David Yu, CTO at, said: "IM is extremely useful and enables us to have real time discussions within the office and remote locations 24x7. For time-sensitive coordination, it's proven far more effective than other means."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, believes virus writers will increasingly exploit IM as part of a blended attack, but says email will always remain the primary target.

"More and more viruses and worms are using a variety of different methods to spread, including email, instant messaging, internet relay chat and file-sharing networks," said Cluley.

"It seems these days virus writers are throwing more and more ingredients into their cocktail. It isn't much extra effort for them and may increase the chances for their malware to successfully spread."

"However, when we see these blended threats the email propagation still seems to be the most successful vector by far," he added. "So, although some worms will try and spread using instant messaging, they typically will continue to cause the most problems via email."