Product minds file-sharing and IM apps

SurfControl Inc. claims its Instant Message Filter can bring instant messaging and peer-to-peer file sharing to a halt on enterprise networks.

But IM Filter probably won't be a big seller this year, said Steve Purdham, chief executive officer of the Scotts Valley, Calif., company.

'In this world where everything is perceived as a threat, there still are technologies that have not yet appeared on people's radar,' Purdham said. 'People who are determining policy are not aware of IM and P2P yet.'

The first indications of a change in this awareness are coming in the financial-services industry, which Purdham said is a bellwether of IT trends.

Concerns about regulatory compliance and auditing already have made control of instant messaging a worry for banks and brokerages, he said.

IM and P2P pose security risks because they open unmonitored, uncontrolled links between internal systems and the Internet.

Peer-to-peer apps turn networked computers into Net-accessible servers.

Although they are most often used simply to exchange music and video files, 'the technology doesn't care what is being transmitted,' Purdham said.

'I would say that in every agency there is somebody using instant messaging and some degree of peer-to-peer file sharing. Wherever you have geeks, IM and P2P will be in use,' Purdham said.

At SurfControl itself, he said, 'It was our support guys who decided to start using instant messaging to communicate with users. It wasn't a corporate decision, but when we looked, it was there.'

IM Filter manages traffic by specific IP address, group or subnet.

It can block or allow communication by such applications as AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, as well as file sharing by Fastrack Network's KaZaA and Grokster, and Gnutella Network's Morpheus, BearShare, Gnucleus, LimeWire, Phex and XoloX.

IM Filter is an optional component for SurfControl's Web and e-mail filter products. It costs about $7 per user in a 1,000-seat installation.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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