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6/8/2010
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Top 5 Risks To Businesses Using Social Media

ISACA paper says don't block social media -- just know and alleviate the dangers

Social networking is becoming part of the business now, but there are some key risks to letting employees tweet, post on Facebook and YouTube, and blog, according to IT professional organization ISACA.

In a new white paper published today, ISACA pinpoints the top five risks with social networking: viruses/malware, brand hijacking, lack of control over content, unrealistic customer expectations for what it calls "Internet-speed" service, and lack of compliance in managing records.

"Historically, organizations tried to control risk by denying access to cyberspace, but that won't work with social media," said Robert Stroud, international vice president of ISACA and vice president of IT service management and governance for the service management business unit at CA Technologies, in a statement. "Companies should embrace it, not block it. But they also need to empower their employees with knowledge to implement sound social media governance."

Social networking use within businesses is big: A recent Burston-Marsteller study found that 65 percent of Fortune 100 companies have Twitter accounts; 54 percent, Facebook fan pages; 50 percent, YouTube channels; and 33 percent, corporate blogs, according to ISACA.

The underlying problem, according to the ISACA white paper, is that employees don't always understand what constitutes risky behavior on social networking sites. ISACA recommends social media strategies first focus on how user behavior with social media. "The greatest risks posed by social media are all tied to violation of trust," said John Pironti, ISACA certification committee member and president of IP Architects, in a statement. "Social media is built on the assumption of a network of trusted friends and colleagues, which is exploited by social engineering at great cost to companies and everyday users. That is why ongoing education is critical."

When employees use personal social media accounts to post work-related information, the fallout can include corporate privacy violations, damage to the company's reputation, as well as the loss of competitive advantage in its market, the white paper says. And when users post pictures or information that link them to their employer, brand damage and reputation damage can ensue for the business.

If social media use becomes a distraction at the office, then it can lead to corporate network performance and utilization problems, as well as loss of productivity and increased exposure to malware and viruses, ISACA says.

Enterprise-supplied mobile devices, such as smartphones, also pose risks if not managed properly: malware infection risks, data theft from these devices, data leakage, and the ability for users to bypass the company's enterprise controls, the ISACA paper says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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