A YouGov survey of 2,000 UK consumers found that one in five people now use IM at work and 16 percent of all respondents said they used the technology to send sensitive company information.
"IM use is on the rise," said Peter Shaw, CEO of security company Akonix, who commissioned the survey. "But it's still low on the risk of priorities, although it is rising. There have already been two Fortune 50 companies that had their IM networks taken down this year. I'm talking [for] days!"
Increasingly spam gangs are turning their attention to IM, with viruses being hidden inside attachments. According to the YouGov survey and another, commissioned by security firm Blue Coat, users are not wary enough when opening unsolicited attachments through IM. The Blue Coat survey suggests 64 percent of users have opened files sent through IM.
"People don't associate IM with danger," said Shaw. "So they are not yet wary of its pitfalls. But it's hitting the radar now because these security breaches are starting to happen."
Uptake in IM as a business application has been quickest in the financial sector, according to Akonix. Many companies have introduced IM for employees wanting to chat at work, but, according to Shaw, many are unaware of what can go on.
"It's surprising how much activity can go unnoticed on a network," Shaw said.
In March SC reported IM worms were on the rise in 2005.