IM Planet: Instant messaging takes aim at security

In an ongoing effort to prove instant messaging technology can live up to strict corporate communication standards, vendors of IM technology unveiled a slew of offerings designed to bolster IM security in San Francisco at the IM Planet Conference and Expo.

FaceTime Communications Inc. teamed up with Network Associates Inc.’s McAfee Security division to integrate antivirus scanning technology into FaceTime IM products. The agreement provides network-independent antivirus protection to corporate IM users by enabling scanning of all incoming IM attachments, according to FaceTime officials.

“Enterprises need centralized control of IM and antivirus [protection] on a server basis,” said Glen Vondrick, president and CEO of FaceTime, based in Foster City, Calif. Integration of antivirus scanning technology into IM applications “is the natural next step,” he said.

The integration allows IT administrators to shut down unauthorized network access or block file transfers, Vondrick said. FaceTime’s IM Director line of products interoperates with major IM networks including AOL, Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, IBM Corp.’s Lotus Sametime, Yahoo Inc., and Reuters.

Also at the show, Akonix Systems Inc. rolled out an IM security gateway designed to terminate rogue IM sessions. The Akonix L7 Gateway Version 1.1 includes a real-time “enforcer” capability that blocks public IM sessions that attempt to bypass the gateway, according to Akonix officials. The enforcer technology can detect all public IM communications and manage the IM sessions according to corporate policy. The Akonix L7 1.1 also provides a Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.’s VPN-1/FireWall-1 integration option and additional management capabilities, such as content pattern detection, language filter, and external user disclaimer messages.

Meanwhile, Endeavors Technology Inc. showed its forthcoming Magi Secure IM product, which is designed to authenticate, encrypt, and audit instant messages and file attachments regardless of user location. The product’s transparent desktop proxy technology enforces corporate access rights, thereby blocking or flagging non-authenticated IM users, according to Endeavors officials. Magi Secure IM also creates secure user groups, which can be linked to a corporate directory. In addition, the product taps existing utilities in public IM clients to automatically link the default desktop virus checking application to detect infected rogue attachments.

Also targeting security, Asynchrony Solutions Inc. introduced Envoke, a secure messaging and presence platform that was developed as a research project within the United States Department of Defense. Envoke was designed with the government’s strict security specifications in mind, featuring encryption, secure file transfer, and authentication. The system allows users to authenticate against the Envoke database, NT domains, or LDAP.

Envoke can create a bridge to other collaboration systems within an enterprise by allowing users to see Lotus Sametime Calendar Events, Microsoft NetMeeting Conferences, and CuSeeMe chat rooms from their Envoke client, according to company officials. Envoke also provides cross platform support – including Linux, Windows, and Solaris – and fault tolerance and scalability through federated servers that can be geographically dispersed.

Another vendor on hand at the show, Communicator Inc., unveiled an upgrade to its Communicator Hub IM enterprise service. Hub IM features unified identity management, controlled access to content and applications, integration with corporate directories, and auditing features. Version 3.5 adds a new multi-person discussion channel feature dubbed Forums. The Forums capability provides long-term electronic meeting places that allow IM users to create and continue online, multi-person discussions over extended periods of time. Other features in Hub IM 3.5 include the ability to filter contacts by status and control how information is displayed in a message.