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Protect Your Network From Instant Messaging Risks

Business users are clamoring for IM, but many network architects turn a cold eye to it because of security dangers such as worms, spam, phishing attacks, unauthorized release of sensitive data, etc. Yet, according to a December 2005 Gartner report, by 2010, 90 percent of business users with business e-mail accounts will have IT-controlled IM accounts.

"As IM traffic becomes increasingly higher in volume and potentially higher in value, organizations will need to adopt 'enterprise class' IM technologies as well as IM hygiene (security) services to ensure efficient, integrated, reliable and secure use of IM technologies," the report notes.

Here's 11 steps to help make sure people on the network get the most out of IM, but without the dangers.

1.Use Microsoft's Live Communications Server software, recommends Patrick Verhoeven, group manager, IT solutions product management for Verizon Communications, Inc. (www.verizon.com). The Microsoft application includes a filter that tracks network usage. By tracking network usage, companies can tell if there's unauthorized use of IM.

2. Use a hosted IM service, adds Verhoeven, whose company launched such a service (Verizon Hosted Secure Instant Messaging) in early April. A hosted IM service takes the much of the burden of keeping up with security off the shoulders of the client company and puts it on the host.

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