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Like many other businesses, the financial sector has embraced e-commerce as a way of expanding. Today, online banking is fairly common. Many financial institutions offer a variety of products and services for commercial and retail customers. And the finance market is mirroring wider use of all things “e” by taking e-business a step farther with the use of instant messaging (IM) to provide faster customer-inquiry responses. But although IM use often allows them to provide better customer service, it also exposes institutions to a variety of potential risks. WHAT IS IM AND HOW DOES IT WORK? Instant messaging emerged in the late 1990s from increased use of and dependence on the Internet for general and commercial communication and transactions. IM is client software that allows person-to-person interactive communication in real time, provided that users have the same software. The client software lets a user maintain a list of contacts with whom he or she would like to communicate. Users can send messages to any contact on their list. Users can also block a particular contact, or even all unknown individuals, from sending an instant message. IM seems like the solution for many business issues that companies face today. Unfortunately, IM technology has quite a few vulnerabilities, and these weaknesses create security threats that present various types of potential liability. SECURITY RISKS FACED BY FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS USING IM Due to IM’s inherent vulnerabilities, financial institutions that use instant messaging may expose themselves to a variety of security risks such as:

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