Security firm introduces IM monitoring as standard

Internet security firm SmoothWall have incorporated new support for the monitoring of instant messaging (IM) conversations in all new versions of their software.

Instant messaging use has grown significantly in the workplace over the past few years, morphing itself from a simple chat tool into a speedy and convenient business application that offers an efficient alternative to email. But although IM has its advantages, when misused it can encourage time wasting and expose organizations to significant legal risks.

To reduce these risks, SmoothWall’s 2008 suite of web filtering and firewall software products now incorporate tools to help managers monitor and log IM conversations.

SmoothWall’s product manager Tom Newton explained; ‘Extending Acceptable Use Policies to cover IM and blocking the installation of unauthorized clients can help to mitigate security vulnerabilities, but some of the biggest risks lie with ‘chat-happy’ users – who don’t always think about how a message might reflect on the organization before they click ‘send’.’

“Some of the biggest risks lie with chat happy users, who don't always think about how a message might reflect on the organization before they click send.

SmoothWall product manager Tom Newton

Unlike emails, instant messages don’t carry legal disclaimers and employee misuse is widespread in organizations who don’t take appropriate steps to manage it properly. Studies show that where IM conversations are monitored, misuse tends to be minimal and its business advantages (and legal risks) can be much more easily evaluated.

Tom added: ‘Our Guardian web filters and firewalls now offer users the ability to monitor and censor IM conversations – or even block the applications altogether. Later in 2008 we plan to add more tools, including advanced reports and control over file transfers.’

SmoothWall has also recently moved to an ‘incremental’ update system which means their customers will be able to download and take advantage of these additions much sooner – via regular software ‘Feature Packs’ which will now be automatically issued to all their users.

In addition to support for IM, SmoothWall’s 2008 security suite comes with a number of other new and valuable features, designed to give administrators much more visibility and control over network and Internet use. Enhancements include real-time traffic logs, detailed ‘drill-down’ reporting tools and templates and a new easy-to-understand dashboard for ‘at-a-glance’ surfing surveillance.