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Zone Labs branches into IM security

Security software specialist Zone Labs has bought IMsecure to capitalize on the growing problem of instant messaging security flaws, the company announced Tuesday.

Security software specialist Zone Labs has bought IMsecure to capitalize on the growing problem of security flaws in instant messaging software, the company announced Tuesday.

IMsecure has developed IMsecure Pro 1.0 to detect viruses and block spam for the most popular messaging applications on the market--AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, said Fred Felman, vice president of marketing at Zone.

The application also allows users to encrypt data and contains a feature that prevents users from inadvertently sending out information, such as Social Security or credit card numbers they mean to keep confidential, Felman said.

San Francisco-based Zone is now selling IMsecure Pro on its Web site for $19.95. The company will subsequently add instant messaging security functionality to its Integrity desktop firewall line, sold primarily to businesses, by the fourth quarter of the year, Felman said.

A free version with basic features is also available on the company?s site.

Privately held Zone on Tuesday also announced the June acquisition of IMsecure, Felman said.

IM has zoomed in popularity in the past two years because it permits nearly instantaneous communication and has historically been relatively immune to spam and other problems that plague e-mail.

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However, worms have been created that attack the major messaging services. One company, SurfControl has developed software that permits IT managers to prevent employees from installing messaging clients without permission.

Despite the problems, messaging use continues to climb. Approximately 1.4 billion messages are delivered each day, Felman said, noting that as with traditional security products, security is largely dependent on people updating their protection packages.

"You sort of have a cocktail for disaster," he said. "People are using (instant messaging) on a day-to-day basis as a secondary form of communication."

Felman added that the consumer application will initially outsell the version that's integrated into the firewall products, but the situation will likely reverse itself.