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Risk

10/28/2008
10:36 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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SocNets May Boost Insecurity

A new survey of IT managers shows that heavy use of social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and instant messaging may be strongly correlated to a higher number of security incidents.

A new survey of IT managers shows that heavy use of social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and instant messaging may be strongly correlated to a higher number of security incidents.In this recent DarkReading story, Kelly Jackson Higgins writes that a recent vendor survey shows that within organizations where employees are heavy users of Web applications and social networks, security incidents -- and their costs -- rise dramatically:

Nearly 60% of all IT managers surveyed by FaceTime Communications reported that their users [use] social-network at the office. Of those organizations, the ones where more users were using social networking today than six months ago experienced an average of 39 security incidents a month, requiring 24 hours worth of remediation. Those with about the same or fewer users of social networking at work experienced around 22 or 23 such incidents a month, with about half the remediation time.

If you found that interesting, here's another shocker from the story:

Among the most surprising finds in the report, according to Cabri [Frank Cabri, VP of marketing and product management at FaceTime Communications], was that one third of the employees surveyed said they had the right to run these applications on their desktop, even if it was a violation of IT policy. "If applications are attractive and they allow the benefits for work or both, people are willing to go against corporate IT policy," he says.

These employees' flagrant disregard for corporate security policies is costly:

Nearly one-fourth of the organizations had been hit by at least one Web-borne attack, costing the business an average of $50,000 per month, according to the report. Large organizations found this cost them as much as $125,000 a month. The main attacks were viruses, Trojans, and worms (59%), and spyware (57%).

This study included peer-to-peer applications, so I wonder how many of these breaches came from LinkedIn or Facebook. The breaches probably came through in much larger numbers through IM and peer-to-peer file sharing.

I'm not sold on the idea that this study revealed a strong correlation between social networks, like Facebook. As the cliche goes: correlation is not always causation.

It seems the real takeaway is that the more you allow your employees to violate security policies (which were probably established for good reasons), the more likely your company will get hacked.

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