Timing, they say, is everything. When it comes to IM security, timing has been an odd thing.
It's been hard to get an exact read on how pervasive IM-borne threats are, making it difficult for businesses of all sizes to decide when to add protection. While vendors such as Akonix, FaceTime and IM Logic have been monitoring malware delivered via public IM networks for the past few years, the larger security vendors have been largely quiet. Until today.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Postini today announced its Integrated Message Management service, a suite of message management applications designed to extend the company's e-mail security to instant messaging and archiving.
The IM-specific part of the suite is called the Postini Perimeter Manager for IM. The Postini Archive Manager will provide customers with the capability to establish and enforce both regulatory and general business policies for the archiving and discovery of e-mail and IM.
IM Is Everywhere
Postini estimates that 85 percent of businesses have employees who use IM. Its proliferation poses a risk because its use isn't managed like other information technology resources and applications. Running over public networks, IM can transmit worms faster than e-mail, allowing confidential information to be sent out with no security checks. "We've been trying to get the timing right," said Andrew Lochart, senior director, marketing at Postini. "We've listened to our customers. When the CIO at Merrill Lynch says IM is really becoming a problem..."
Lochart said that some IT departments have tried to ban IM, but it's too late for that. "It's an entrenched business tool. IM is not just for goofing off." However, securing it presents a technical challenge. It's port-agile, and it will find an open port, Lochart said, "even if that means using Port 80 [the default port number for a Web server]."
Postini Perimeter Manager for IM is available as a managed service. That is, the software sits on servers in one of Postini's 10 data centers and is designed to work with multiple IM networks (e.g, AIM, Yahoo and MSN). Because IM has become part of the workflow for so many companies, the new service appeals to both small and large companies, according to Lochart. "SMBs are certainly among our customer base."
The managed service approach is appealing to both ends of the spectrum, according to Lochart. Small businesses "don't want a bunch of servers," he said. And for larger companies, "putting solutions on premises is difficult when you have a lot of premises."
Using an outsourced, hosted service also makes sense, in general, for IM because "there is no existing infrastructure, there's no IM server sitting there. Businesses are using a consumer-grade product," Lochart said. After all, he points out, "many enterprises have already outsourced their IM accidentally to Yahoo or AIM."
In addition to making IM more secure, businesses need to archive communications such as instant messages and e-mails, Lochart said. "If a lawyer is looking for an e-mail, you have to be able to produce it." The Postini Archive Manager is designed to provide a message-archiving solution to address the regulatory and general business compliance requirements for both IM and e-mail.
The service, Postini says, will provide immutable storage for the secure, reliable archiving of e-mail and IM messages. The new service will also allow enterprises to produce material business documents, such as during the discovery phase of a lawsuit, through a set of indexing, search and retrieval applications.
All-in-One Meets Best of Breed
Postini's Integrated Message Management platform is built upon the company's Active Policy Management Framework, which is designed to allow customers to define and apply policies across the entire organization. You can also apply those policies to specific groups or individuals.
Postini provides the framework, but it doesn't do all the lifting itself. "Businesses want best-of-breed solutions, but they also want it to be all in one." That's where the Active Policy Management Framework is designed to shine, according to Postini. "For anti-spam, we ended up writing our own software. For viruses, we use McAfee. And for IM, we've licensed technology from IM Logic," Lochart said.
IM Logic provides technology Postini needs to get the text from IMs so it can run its rules, Lochart said. He added the Postini chose IM Logic for both its products and because it has "really strong relationships with the public IM networks." IM Logic is also scalable, Lochart said, which is needed to operate over the company's 10 data centers."
Postini Perimeter Manager for IM is available for $33 per user, per year. The Postini Archive Manager, which will be available in the fourth quarter, will also cost $33 per use, per year.