Symantec is introducing a service to secure corporate use of instant messaging, including Microsoft Lync.
Lync is the latest version of the Microsoft unified communications platform, the successor to Office Communications Server, supporting voice and video as well as instant messaging. Symantec is upgrading its Instant Messaging Security.cloud (IMS.cloud) service, which already covers public IM networks such as Yahoo Messenger, to also screen Lync IM traffic for malware, malicious links, and improper sharing of corporate data. IMS.cloud will also archive conversations as dictated by corporate policy.
Lync is likely to be "Microsoft's next billion-dollar platform," based on the rate at which it is being adopted, but that creates challenges for enterprises, said Nick Emanuel, senior product manager for IM and Web with the Symantec.cloud team. "We have customers coming to us saying they don't know how to control this or put policies in place to manage this stream of data."
In a survey, Symantec found that only 30% of the organizations that have adopted unified communications have a malware solution in place that covers IM. Meanwhile, 58% believe they face a high or very high risk of data loss, yet only 19% have policies in place on what can be shared over IM, according to Symantec.
[Many mobile enterprise apps are mere shells of the desktop experience, but not Windows Phone's mobile SharePhone and Lync, says Microsoft. Learn more: Microsoft Touts UC Apps On Windows Phone.]
IMS.cloud is specifically for organizations that have enabled Lync Data Federation, meaning that IM sessions are allowed to pass outside the firewall. Lync can also be configured to allow users to connect with IM users on public services. IMS.cloud acts as a proxy service, making sure all traffic is scanned prior to delivery.
Emanuel said this service does not manage IM traffic within the enterprise, although it could add such a version of the product if the demand for it materializes. So far, the greatest demand from customers is to control external traffic, he said.
Although configuring Lync to allow external IMs takes some extra work, Symantec believes many enterprises will take that step in order to get the greatest return on their investment in unified communications. IM has the advantage of being "like email but very, very quick, rapid," Emanuel said, and companies see its potential to improve productivity.
Smaller companies have accepted the risks of IM for years, although Symantec is trying to convince more of them to screen that traffic through its cloud servers. Large enterprises are more likely to have a chief information security officer (CISO) scrutinizing such applications.
"Enterprises want federation with customers, partners, and users of public IM, but the only way they can get it past the CISO is by addressing the security issues," Emanuel said.
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