Sprint Corp. is joining the antispam wars with a new service aimed at trying to help corporate clients keep employee e-mail boxes free of junk e-mail.

The telecommunications company recently unveiled its new Sprint Email Protection Services, which filters spam e-mail and will clean incoming corporate messages of viruses before they enter a company’s network. Sprint’s new services come at a time when a growing number of vendors are providing similar e-mail filtering and cleaning, including Postini Inc. in Redwood City, Calif., and SurfControl PLC in London. Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said that while the idea of e-mail filtering and cleaning is a good one, he called it “a stretch” that companies would want to allow controls of their e-mail systems to be placed outside of their own systems. The Sprint e-mail security features include antivirus monitoring and blocking, dual antivirus scanning engines and IP masking to hide a customer’s IP address.

As IM use grows, so does concern

America Online Inc.’s instant messenger, Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Messenger and Yahoo Inc.’s Messenger have long been popular among home users and have now made their way onto many business PCs. However, they may expose sensitive data or open a new door for hackers to get into corporate networks.

Outsiders can monitor messages that employees send over the public IM networks because the IM servers that employees connect to often lie outside a company’s network. In addition, viruses – which exploit security holes in all three popular IM applications – have spread this year. Instant messaging has proven its benefits. About one-third of telecom companies with more than 100 employees surveyed by Yankee Group use IM for customer service. The percentage is slightly lower in financial services and retail, with 31 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively. Nearly half of the 506 million IM users expected online by 2006 will be business users, according to IDC (a sister company of CSO’s publisher), which expects the IM market to boom from US$72 million in 2001 to US$781 million in 2006. To protect themselves, companies must gain control over unauthorized use of public IM networks, according to Yankee Group Program Manager Paul Ritter. Companies can secure their IM traffic by bringing IM infrastructure in-house through proprietary products like IBM’s Lotus Sametime, Microsoft’s Exchange or Communicator’s Hub IM, he said. The Goldman Sachs Group, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney Holdings and Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. are deploying Communicator Hub IM to their employees and offering it to their customers. The product allows user authentication and secure messaging.