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Instant Mess

Grab the spackle. Instant messaging is the latest crack in your security.

This story appears in the January 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Rapid growth in instant messaging is causing equally rapid growth in risk for any business with employees who use it. Theft of confidential information, infection by computer viruses, invasion by hackers and potentially devastating lawsuits are just a few of the risks cited by experts on the dangers of workplace proliferation of IM, as it's popularly known.

"Sexual harassment, defamation, discrimination, lost productivity--the list goes on and on," says Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a Columbus, Ohio, organization that sells advice on electronic communications. Flynn says risks from instant messaging parallel those posed by e-mail, and a 2001 survey by her organization found 8 percent of firms had faced claims of sexual harassment or discrimination resulting from e-mail or Internet use.

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