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IMs No Longer Invisible To The Boss 8-o

ESniff hardware plugs into corporate networks and monitors all TCP/IP traffic, including instant messaging.
While companies grapple with instant messaging as a productivity enhancement or hindrance, there's a more pressing concern: security risks. Information leaks are going undetected in companies around the globe, because although they've monitored Web and E-mail activity for years, most don't know how to track IM content. But that's changing, thanks to a product called eSniff. Its hardware plugs into corporate networks and monitors all TCP/IP traffic, including chat rooms, network printer jobs, and IM.

About 100 businesses, including Advent Networks Inc., currently use eSniff. Advent, an Austin, Texas, network-equipment maker, implemented an eSniff 1100 device in January to help put some teeth behind its acceptable-use policy. Esniff's IM-monitoring feature was added in June, months after Advent first bought the eSniff device. It's a feature that's much appreciated by Jason Adams, Advent's director of business technology.

While IM isn't supported by Advent's IT department, employees still use it to communicate, he says. Esniff will alert him if inappropriate content--such as intellectual-property or harassing messages--is conveyed through IM, capturing the entire communication string. Esniff hasn't set off any alerts yet regarding Advent's IM communication. However, Adams says he expects his company to use IM increasingly as a business tool. "It's a newer type of communication, and I don't think most IT departments give any thought to IM." That's where eSniff comes in handy, he says: "It's more thorough than other monitoring products--it encompasses all of the activities people could possibly use to communicate."