IM-Age apps audit instant messages

Software alerts managers if certain words or phrases appear in incoming or outgoing traffic

IM-Age Software Inc. of Houston can monitor and secure instant messages for business use.

'Instant messaging is a loophole' in data retention policies, IM-Age chief executive officer David Pulaski said. 'People are starting to use it for significant work.'

Originally meant for casual conversations within a community of users, instant messaging is moving into the workplace because of its convenience. But the exchanges are in clear text, and there is no record of them.

The IM-Age for Desktops application encrypts and archives exchanges, and it audits the archived traffic for compliance with organizational policy. It works with common IM applications from America Online Inc., ICQ.com, Microsoft Corp., Lotus Development Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

The software was developed for Enron Corp., the bankrupt energy trading company whose employees used instant messaging to conduct auctions. They had a variety of commercial products such as AOL Instant Messenger, some with their own encryption, and firewall products could not monitor all the traffic.

The IM-Age application supports multiple IM products and uses 448-bit Blowfish encryption to secure messages. Incoming and outgoing traffic is captured in the clear and sent to an archive server, where it is audited for policy compliance. Alerts can go out to managers by telephone, pager or e-mail when specified words or phrases appear.

Employees not using IM-Age can download a Blowfish encryption key from a Web link for their sessions. IM-Age also can authenticate the other end of an IM conversation by sending a Web link to download code for verifying log-in name and machine name. Pulaski said stronger authentication using digital certificates is under consideration for future versions.

The desktop agent requires 1M to 5M of RAM, depending on buffer size, and 2.67M of storage. It can be distributed by standard network management tools or installed in stealth mode so users do not know their traffic is being captured.

The server software requires Microsoft SQL Server with 36M of RAM. IM-Age also can host the server component as a service.

Desktop licenses sell for $40 per user in 100-user blocks with a 20 percent annual subscription fee for upgrades. The server software sells for $2,995, and the hosted service costs 30 percent of the purchase price per year.

The company makes a sniffer tool, available as a free download, to search for instant messaging traffic on a network.

Contact IM-Age at 877-232-6333.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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