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Time to take control of Instant Messaging

Crystal ball gazing

Just to make life interesting, both from a technical as well as a regulatory point of view, there are increasing signs that mobile phones will become the next generation of portable devices to join the IM revolution.

Two of the cellular industry's handset companies, Nokia and Sony-Ericsson, are planning to offer IM facilities on their next generation of mobile phones, whilst the third firm, Motorola, is thought to be planning an IM move later in the year. This trend means that IM sessions between mobiles and desktops will start to become a lot more commonplace, introducing yet another security and regulatory risk to the mix.

The problem with mobiles is that, because their onboard software tends to be proprietary, it is not possible to authenticate users in the same way that Windows or Unix PCs can support. It is possible, however, to authenticate mobile phone IM users using text message or mobile Internet interactions using a challenge-response approach.

That technology, like the authentication systems already available for desktop PC IM users, cannot come before it is needed, as research just released by the Yankee Group suggests that between five and eight per cent of business IMs in the US are spam.

Spammed IMs are a new feature on the business landscape, says the report, and are the direct result of marketing managers being unable to call business prospects on the phone due to US cold calling regulations.

Those regulations, in the form of telephone preference lists, are also rising in popularity over here. You have been warned...

From his base in Sheffield, England, Steve Gold has been an IT journalist specialising in communications and security for 22 years, 18 of them full-time.