IM Security Space Gets More Crowded

As IM security threats continue to mount, so too grow the solutions geared to protect against such threats. Managed security vendor Postinitoday announced that it would be entering the IM security fray with a new hosted solution.

Postini Perimeter Manager for IM is designed to help protect users against viruses and worms. The solution benefits from Postini’s partnership with IM security vendor IMlogic.

Separately, Postini also announced a new Archive Manager that will help enterprises deal with regulatory compliance issues by archiving both IM and emails.

Andrew Lochart Postini’s senior director of marketing, explained that Postini needed IMlogic’s knowledge of which ports to listen to as well as a full understanding of all the different protocols that the public networks use and relationships with those networks. The new IM solution is integrated into Postini’s current framework allowing its service to check for spam and viruses as well as IM worms at the same time.

“In the past it felt like this was a fairly small market [IM security] and we were only seeing early adopters. We don’t necessarily feel like we need to be the first with something, but we didn’t want to wait too long,” Lochart told

This year has seen a dramatic increase in the number of IM based threats. The IMlogic Threat Center reported an increase in attacks via instant messaging clients from 20 in 2004 to 571 in the second quarter of 2005. The Akonix Security Center reported 42 new threats aimed at corporate IM systems in July, representing a 24 percent increase over June. In a recent analyst teleconference Akonix’ CTO referred to 2005 as the year of the “professionalization” of IM attacks.

Postini’s Lochart noted that outsourcing IM security is a logical step considering that IM itself is actually an outsourced application and most companies don’t have an IM infrastructure.

“The way this technology came into companies was through the back door. The IT department was not involved, end users simply downloaded the free client and started using it,” said Lochart. “The IT departments realize that they are now entrenched business tools and they can’t just shut it off, they need to support it and manage it. But they don’t have any infrastructure.Unlike email these businesses don’t have an IM server that they can just make adjustments to.”

Lochart continued that IM fundamentally suffers from the same security issues as email. “If you create a policy that says ?Here are the employees that are allowed to send a spreadsheet outside the company? that policy probably applies to IM as well as email,” Lochart said. “With Postini it’s one policy, one admin console and you’re done. You don’t have fiddle around with multiple solutions from multiple vendors to get the kind of policy enforcement that you’re looking for.”

Francis Costello, chief technology officer at Akonix, a competitor of IMlogic (and now Postini by extension) doesn’t see Postini’s entry into the market as changing the landscape much. Rather he sees Postini’s entry as further validation of the need for IM security.

“Overall what it shows is that enterprises are continuing to recognize that this is a huge issue and there is an increasing need to address it,” Costello told “You always worry if you’re in a market and no one else wants to compete with you because that means there isn’t much of a market.”

That said, Costello does see a market for hosted solutions as opposed to an applicant or software based solution.

“We do believe that over time a portion of customers will look towards hosted solutions and we are talking to a number of people about delivering our software in that form,” Costello said.

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