Update: 2 Minutes on ... Collaborating with the enemy

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Adobe has been demonstrating a development of the Breeze online conferencing software it gained through its merger with Macromedia last year. Details are still embargoed, but at a briefing given to the UK press in July, one thought occurred: how secure is this kind of technology?

Macromedia's Breeze has been around for a couple of years. It allows users to collaborate online using Flash-based technology and instant messaging. A demo exists on Adobe's website for those who wish to find out more.

Earlier this year, Adobe was forced to release a patch for the Macromedia Flash player following an alert for malicious code. That's good as far as addressing malware attacks is concerned.

But of more concern is the human fallibility that lies at the heart of online conferencing and training that technology such as Breeze, and the upcoming development from Adobe, provides.

Imagine you are part of an online design group that meets via a Breeze conference room to finalise the look and feel of your new product, or perhaps, the marketing team meeting to put the finishing touches to the campaign for a new soft drink.

Yes, you may have all your authorised attendees there in their little video windows, but who else has silently accessed the online meeting room? This is a potential conduit for industrial espionage.

As Breeze is a completely web-based system, the worry is that you and your group are not the only ones viewing and enjoying every minute of your conferenced presentation and detailed, fully scripted discussions. The threat could come from in or outside your own four walls. The lurking dangers that apply to any web activity apply here, too.

Adobe has issued a 51-page white paper on security and has indeed built in a good degree of control within the Flash player and its global security settings. The worry is that Breeze (and its forthcoming update) are so easy to use, and so convenient, that many more employees may be tempted to set up accounts without administrative authorisation and start discussing company secrets without due diligence.

Even with controls in place, it pays remember that anything discussed via the internet can be eavesdropped. Until proven watertight or secured within an company's own protocols, these, albeit useful and productive, tools should be distributed and used with a high degree of caution. Temptation is only a click away.

SPY COSTS

$1bn - The value of Pentagon contracts lost by Boeing after it was discovered to have acquired thousands of confidential documents from its rival Lockheed Martin. Source: BBC

$1.5m - The price offered to Pepsi for fizzy drink secrets stolen by a Coca-Cola employee. Source: FT

0 - The number of specific offences under UK law that relate to industrial espionage. Source: Hansard.

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