IM Management: IMlogic Faces Its Symantec Future

IMlogic, along with Akonix and FaceTime, make up the big three instant messaging (IM) management and security vendors, and like these other two, IMlogic focuses on three key areas: IM security to prevent worm and virus propagation, compliance through IM logging and archiving, and policy enforcement to ensure that IM is only available in a controlled fashion to authorized users. As you would expect from a company involved in the IM market, IMlogic has certified support for all the major public and proprietary messaging systems: AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, ICQ, IBM Lotus Instant Messaging, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003/2005, Jabber, Reuters, Antepo and others.

But in many ways IMlogic is the odd one out of the big three. That’s because in January of this year it was bought by security vendor Symantec for around $70 million, so it is part of a big company rather than being a niche software maker.

The company is also unusual in that it sells one core product, IM Manager, rather than a number of modules which work together, as is the case with Akonix and FaceTime. It’s unusual too because the product can be deployed in three ways – as a packaged software product running on a corporate server, as a hardened appliance – the IMlogic IM Manager SMARTGig 6000 (SG6000) – or from one of four hosted service providers on an ASP basis.

A key question is how IM Manager will change now that IMlogic is part of Symantec. “We’ll be looking at integrating IM Manager technology into other Symantec web security and messaging products,” says Jon Sakoda, senior director of product management at Symantec. “We don’t talk about our product roadmaps externally, but Symantec is strong in email and compliance products and many of the problems are similar to IM so it makes sense in future to be integrated.”

Sakoda says IM Manager is unique in that whereas other products react to security threats using anti-virus engines, IM Manager also takes a predictive approach. “We can give customers a way to defend against new types of attacks using our predictive threat engine,” he says. “We look at traffic patterns and various types of usage patterns, and these can trigger protection measures when they are unusual.”

These measures can include stripping out URLs from messages, or redirecting potentially malicious URLs to an internal web page which warns users that the URL may be bad and the consequences of downloading a file from an untrusted source. In many cases this diversion is enough to stop users infecting their PCs, while not preventing legitimate activity, Sakoda says.

IM Manger now benefits from the resources of Symantec’s Security Response, so anti-virus updates for Symantec products are now automatically pushed out to IM Manager as well, he says.

On the compliance side, IM Manager is the only product which archives files transferred though IM, as well as the chat sessions themselves, according to Sakoda. In fact few companies need to archive every file that every employee transfers, so rules can be set up to dictate which employees, or groups of employees, need to have their file transfers archived for compliance purposes.

What about mobile workers connecting to IM networks while on the move? IMlogic’s approach differs from that of, say, Akonix, in that it is based on trust. IM clients on laptops can be set up by the IT department so that they point to IM Manager on the corporate network rather than straight to public IM servers, but there is nothing to stop employees downloading and installing their own clients and accessing the public IM networks in the normal way, compromising security and compliance procedures deliberately or through ignorance in the process.

Whether this will change, and precisely how IM Manager becomes integrated with the rest of Symantec’s security products remains to be seen. The betting is that it will be twelve to eighteen months before this becomes crystal clear.

Pricing: IM Manager 7.5 pricing starts at $7,500 for a server license with
per user license pricing starting at $15

  • Feature set

    • Centralized Management and Control
    • Configurable Group Policies
    • IM Screen Name Registration
    • End-User Access Control
    • Server-based IM Management
    • IM Usage Statistics and Reporting
    • In-Depth System Diagnostics

  • Security and Policy Enforcement

    • Network layer deep-packet inspection to detect / block rogue IM (and P2P) applications
    • Automatic Security Updates from the IMlogic Threat Center
    • Predictive Threat Protection
    • Regular Expression Pattern Matching
    • User Authentication Enforcement
    • File Transfer Controls
    • Virus Scanning
    • Advanced Spam Control
    • Internal Network Routing
    • Controlled External Communications

  • Compliance and Archiving

    • Advanced Content Filtering for HR, Legal & Regulatory Compliance
    • 100% Reliable Message Logging
    • Granular File Transfer Controls
    • Company-Specific Legal Disclaimers

  • Systems Management and Reporting

    • Integrated Reporting
    • Compliance Reporting and Analysis
    • Real-Time Systems Management and Monitoring Dashboard
Paul Rubens
Paul Rubens
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist specializing in enterprise networking, security, storage, and virtualization. He has worked for international publications including The Financial Times, BBC, and The Economist, and is now based near Oxford, U.K. When not writing about technology Paul can usually be found playing or restoring pinball machines.
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