Reports: Social Networking Apps Pervasive But Not Under Control

Financial and healthcare organizations increase use of these apps in-house, and overall, social networkers still leaving their profiles wide open to abuse

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

March 30, 2010

2 Min Read

A pair of separate reports released today on the state of social networking found a big gap remains in protecting organizations and individuals from the risks of these applications: and 94 percent of the financial services and healthcare industries run an average of 28 social networking apps in-house.

That's a major finding by Palo Alto Networks in its new "Application Usage and Risk Report" that gathered real data from application traffic from its application firewall customers. While these industries face regulations on how they control and monitor data that flows in these apps, they don't have the necessary visibility to do so given that these apps appear as browser traffic since they use port 80 or port 443, the report says.

Meanwhile, a survey by Webroot of over 1,000 members of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and other social networks found that while 37 percent more users are blocking their profiles from public searches, 28 percent have never changed their default privacy settings, and 81 percent don't restrict who can see their recent activity online. And they still include risky personal info: birthday (61 percent); hometown (52 percent); and cell phone number (17 percent).

Not surprisingly, the young users are less likely to secure their information: among 18- to 29-year-olds, 43 percent use the same password across multiple sites and 40 percent accept friend requests from strangers. Among users of all ages, while 73 percent say they knew about Facebook's recent privacy changes that automatically exposed their full profiles by default, 42 percent say they haven't made any changes to their settings since the Facebook policy took effect.

A little good news: 27 percent of users restrict who can see their profile via a public search engine (up from 20 percent last year); 67 percent use different passwords for each social network (up from 64 percent last year), according to Webroot's study.

The Palo Alto Networks report, meanwhile, says Webmail represents half of the email application traffic among healthcare and financial services -- leaving these organizations at risk of compliance violations, malware infection, and data leakage.

And two-thirds of the 750 applications used by Palo Alto's customers can pass as Web traffic. That means peer-to-peer apps can use port 80 or SSL, which makes them difficult to find and control, the report says. The full report is available for download here.

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Dark Reading Staff

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