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Enterprises Struggling With SSL Apps That Evade Traditional Controls

More than a third of enterprise traffic is comprised of apps that use encryption or port-hopping, annual Palo Alto Networks study says
More than a third of enterprise traffic is driven by applications that can evade traditional security monitoring applications, according to a study published last week.

Palo Alto Networks' "2011 Application Usage and Risk Report" (AUR), an annual study of actual enterprise application usage patterns, says that 36 percent of traffic is now driven by programs such as Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, which can be hidden via SSL encryption or port hopping.

"This represents a significant blind spot that most IT organizations have not yet adequately addressed, and one that is rarely discussed in the security industry," the report states.

The workplace also has become more social, according to the report. "Contrary to popular opinion, social networking has not meant the death knell of webmail and instant messaging [IM]," it says. IM traffic, as a percentage of overall traffic, has more than doubled in the past year, while webmail and social networking has increased nearly five times.

The report also shows fast evolution of file transfer technologies. Browser-based file sharing applications now use peer-based technology and add clients as a premium, which raises security questions similar to those that were raised with peer-to-peer technologies, Palo Alto Networks observes.

"Never assume anything about end-user behavior," said Rene Bonvanie, vice president of marketing at Palo Alto Networks, in a statement. "This data should be a wake-up call for IT teams who assume encrypted traffic is mainly HTTPS, or for those who still believe that social networking usage is not taking place on their corporate networks."

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