SurfControl Instant Message Filter

This product complements the broader Web Filter software from the same company and borrows the basic engine from Akonix.

It describes IM as a 'rogue protocol' because it avoids standard network security measures. This means they scan for available ports and can tunnel through port 80, usually left open for internet traffic.

Installation took longer than we expected for a product of this type. IM Filter stores reporting data in a SQL database. If, like our test scenario, you do not have SQL Server, it installs the light version MSDE, which comes free with the software.

Designed to run on a Windows system, it manages most IM and P2P protocols. Access to a number of products can be blocked down to domain or even machine level. P2P technologies are also handled.

One thing that must be said about IM Filter is that it is just one component of the larger Web Filter software, so by no means goes into the depth of enforcement offered by some of the dedicated products on review.

Depending on your opinion about IM, this might not be a problem. Many organizations will be content simply to block IM, because it has yet to be adopted as a common business communication tool. It is, on the other hand, often responsible for a noticeable reduction in staff productivity.

When a user's IM has been blocked, you can opt to display a message when they try to send a message. This is both simple to set up and configurable – the same can be done when blocking P2P access.

SurfControl's reporting functionality is relatively comprehensive, and a data warehouse is used to archive information on any rogue protocol activity.

The IM Filter management console runs as a Microsoft Management Console snap-in. It is one of two basic components of the software, the other being the IM Filter server. This is responsible for checking all the packets trying to leave the network.

Overall, the Instant Message Filter is a sound and simple solution to IM threats, although you might have to look elsewhere for more customizable options in terms of messaging policies.

Product title
SurfControl Instant Message Filter
Product info
Name: SurfControl Instant Message Filter (IM security tools group test) Description: Price: $190 for 100 users
Simple no-frills answer to IM threats.
Less customizable than some of the dedicated products.
Web filter provides excellent overall web security, but standalone IM Filter could fall short.

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