IM secure(ity)

Friday, 16 May 2003, 11:48 AM EST

From its humble beginnings as a buddy-to-buddy chatting service, instant messaging (IM) has blossomed into a staple for tens of millions of Internet users. Popular systems such as America Online's Instant Messenger and ICQ, Microsoft's MSN Messenger, and Internet Relay Chat have changed the way we communicate with our friends, acquaintances and now our business colleagues.

And according to industry analysts at IDC, the number of corporate IM users is only expected to grow – to a whopping 300 million by 2005.

Most IM systems in use today were designed with scalability in mind, rather than security. Virtually all freeware IM systems lack encryption capabilities, and most have features to bypass traditional corporate firewalls, making it difficult for administrators to control their use inside the organization. Many of these systems have insecure password management and are vulnerable to account spoofing and potentially to denial-of-service attacks.

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