Security tool offers to rein in at-work IM use

At-work instant messaging (IM) addicts beware: Web security firm Blue Coat Systems Inc. is planning to release an application that can monitor, log and manage employees' consumer IM use.

The company's IM Traffic Control product, which is set to be released in the third quarter of this year, will provide IT administrators with access and control of users' messaging applications from leading consumer providers America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company said that its product is one of the first to offer businesses the ability to rein in employees rogue consumer IM use, which has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent months.

According to research done by Gartner Inc., 70 percent of companies it surveyed said they were inundated with instant messaging in 2002. Furthermore, the Stamford, Connecticut, researcher predicted that this year companies would attempt to take back control.

Blue Coat's IM Traffic Control application, due to be announced Monday, will be available as a stand-alone product, or as part of the company's Web security platform, which also includes content filtering, Web virus scanning and proxy caching.

Companies' newly declared battle against employees unsanctioned IM use comes at a time when the leading consumer messaging providers are also attempting to distribute corporate versions of their products.

Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL have all recently launched corporate IM products, in a race to stake claim of the emerging market.

With companies' antennae raised to the spike in IM use at work, employees should consider themselves warned -- their IT administrator is probably watching.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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