Developing a policy for instant messaging (IM) is a smart thing to do. There are a large number of security implications that come with IM that your users should be educated on and should be enforced within your organization. Some key issues to keep in mind with your policy is to make sure that its reasonable and fair, and make sure that its both enforceable and enforced. Some key issues that your organization (and information) is up against are logging issues (are conversations being logged and by whom), firewall compromises (letting traffic in or out that should otherwise be blocked), denial-of-service concerns, encryption concerns, standardizing on one IM application, and malicious code and other content-security vulnerabilities. IM is a great business application, just make sure you understand the threats and vulnerabilities associated with it, document it in a policy(ies) and keep everyone in the loop. There is a good sample generic acceptable-usage policy at http://www.sans.org/resources/policies/Acceptable_Use_Policy.doc that can be translated for IM use.
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This was first published in April 2003