Instant-messaging threats are on the up, with security firm Akonix claming there have been 38 malicious-code attacks on IM networks so far this month, twice the number experienced in July.

Akonix said IM worms with such bizarre names as Delf, Mimbot, MSNHorm and MSNPoopy have emerged this month, proving that IM networks are becoming a popular vehicle for hackers to attempt to break into corporate networks.

Instant-messaging threats work much like email ones, where malware is launched when the recipient clicks on a link or a download option included in the message.

Instead of being sent over email, however, these threats are spread through IM chat sessions. Many corporations still don't secure IM traffic because administrators don't realise how pervasive these applications are among their employees - if they notice IM traffic running across their network at all.

Because IM networks such as those from AOL, MSN and Yahoo can be joined easily by employees and carry few security precautions with them, companies that don't monitor for IM traffic on their network and secure that communication path open themselves up to threats, Akonix officials say.

An Akonix survey released earlier this year said one-third of the participants had been harassed or threatened via an instant message while at work.