UK businesses have been told to stop allowing employees to use IM in the workplace, or face the consequences of malware running riot on corporate networks.

Security firm FutureSoft quoted research from YouGov which found that although 28 percent of employees used an IM app at least once a week, most were unaware of the security risks.

"The majority of employees feel that it is their employer's responsibility to secure the network and not down to them to secure their particular PC – or endpoint – against the risk of infection through misuse of internet, email and IM," said FutureSoft UK MD Claire Shaw.

Futuresoft said IM apps were increasingly being used by malicious software, with sophisticated spyware using a combination of automation and social engineering to attack workers' PCs.

"Allowing end users to install and run any application they like is an invitation to ever growing support costs, possible legal liability and serious security breaches," said Shaw.