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Chapter 25. Enterprise Instant Messaging > The Risks of Consumer IM Systems

The Risks of Consumer IM Systems

The convenience of IM carries risks. Traditional IM systems lack the security features needed to protect a company's assets. Message sessions on consumer platforms are susceptible to electronic eavesdropping, and hackers have the capability not only to get into a user's computer but also into the enterprise network and the intellectual property that resides there. Many consumer IM systems offer direct, peer-to-peer file-sharing capabilities. These lack security and leave corporations more vulnerable to hackers. Viruses have the ability to spread quickly throughout insecure IM systems—paralyzing a corporate network in no time. Many companies that offer free IM services, such as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo!, have been infected with viruses: Aplore was spread through AIM, and MSN messenger was infected by Choke and CoolNow.

Corporations without a secure enterprise IM (EIM) system find that their employees rely on publicly available IM technology. Those publicly available solutions do not offer management mechanisms. The decentralized structure prohibits IT department control over who within the organization uses IM and how. This said, Gartner Group found that 60% of all enterprises have some form of IM behind their firewalls. And very few CIOs and CTOs have developed a strategy to manage, or extend their IM infrastructures.


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