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Facebook Fear Factors: Social Nets And Business Risk

Facebook and other social networks are as hot at work as elsewhere. And therein, according to a security executive, lies a very big rub. More than one, actually.
Facebook and other social networks are as hot at work as elsewhere. And therein, according to a security executive, lies a very big rub. More than one, actually.While the Koobface worm wreaking its ways through Facebook, having made an appearance on MySpace this past summer, is currently the most obvious social networking threat.

But social networks carry other business threats and problems, says David Kelleher of security firm GFI.

He outlines four main problems with social netspace in the workspace:

Loss of productivity

Bandwidth consumption

Data and identity theft

Malware introduced into the business network

What made Kelleher's most interesting to me was his delineation of three business responses to the problem:

Outright prohibition of social network site visits on company time (or equipment)

Unrestricted access to social nets (and other Web sites)

Limited access with active monitoring of employee Web habits

Representing a security firm, Kelleher understandably comes down in favor of his third option.

But it occurs to me that all three of his approaches offer the opportunity, especially for small and midsized businesses in closer contact with their employees than may be possible at widespread enterprises, to turn the appeal of social networking into a company security plus.

Leaving aside the outright ban option -- although you might be better able to accomplish this with fewer employee grumbles in tight economic times -- the other two approaches provide a perfect opportunity to address security issues, reinforce security and usage policies, and foster teamwork simultaneously.

Here's how:

If you and your IT team -- and employee supervisors/managers -- aren't on Facebook (or whichever net is most popular with your employees) sign up. "earn how the network operates, what features it offers, what business uses might be better out to work.

Next, create a social network space for the company; suggest (or insist) that the business space be the primary social networking use during work hours.

Third, use social network usage policies as the opportunity to thoroughly address overall company computer/communications policies, inviting comment from all employees but making clear that your policy is meant to be adhered to. Period.

Stress both the security and productivity concerns surrounding social networking and seek the happiest, safest medium for your business productivity and digital security.

This approach is, itself, a sort of experiment in social networking, but with your employees as the network, not the whole wide Web.

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