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New Trend Found In IM Enterprise Threats

The number of viruses threatening corporate instant-messaging systems is on the rise, and some pesky new techniques are cropping up as well.

Nearly a quarter more new viruses threatening corporate computers through employee use of public instant-messaging networks were discovered last month, including one that reflected a new trend of attacking multiple IM systems, a security firm said.

A total of 42 new threats were tracked in July, a 24 percent increase over the previous month, San Diego-based Akonix Systems said. July had the second highest number of new threats seen by Akonix since the beginning of the year. The highest was in April, when 48 were found.

"We definitely see the security threat for IM increasing," David Jaros, director of product marketing for Akonix, said.

Five new viruses were discovered in July, including Rants, Prex, Kirvo, Hagbard and Lamar. The Akonix Security Center also found new variants of previous malware, including Kelvir, Bropia, Opanki and Oscabot.

Of particular concern was the Rants virus, which was found on two different IM networks, Jaros said. In April, Akonix started seeing the same virus written for separate networks, such as AIM from America Online and Yahoo Messenger. Since then, the security firm has seen several multi-network viruses.

"The virus writers are no longer focusing on one network," Jaros said. "They're broadening the number of users as potential targets."

An IM virus typically infects a computer when the user clicks on a link embedded in the message. Once activated, the virus immediately sends messages to people on the IM contact list in an infected machine.

Virus writers started targeting IM networks about 18 months ago, but the practice has taken off this year, Jaros said. In the first quarter, the Akonix Security Center discovered 25 IM viruses, compared with 10 in the same period in 2004. In the second quarter of this year, the center has found 121.

In time, Akonix expects IM viruses to be as common as viruses that arrive by email.

"That's definitely what we expect," Jaros said.

The Akonix Security Center is a collaborative effort between the company's and customer's internal security groups and industry partners in IM infrastructure and security. The center focuses on threats posed by IM and peer-to-peer applications in corporations.

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