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Vulnerabilities / Threats

10/27/2008
05:49 PM
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Internet Apps & Social Networking Office Boom Linked to Breaches

New study finds that nearly all organizations have employees using Internet apps at work, and 60% use social networking at the office

One of IT's worst nightmares may be coming true: according to a new survey, organizations where more employees are using social networking at work now than six months ago have experienced more security incidents.

Nearly 60 percent of all IT managers surveyed by FaceTime Communications reported that their users 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.

The overall survey looked at the use of Internet-based applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, instant messaging, and voice-over-IP. "Employees are bringing these applications in… and this is a challenge for IT people because it's at odds with what they are comfortable with," says Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management at FaceTime Communications. "They are trying to enable their employees to get the job done, but they have to be sure their network is up and available, and that information is not leaking out through those channels they can't monitor."

Facetime's survey found that nearly 100 percent of employees at the surveyed organizations use at least one consumer application such as Facebook, YouTube, Skype, or instant messaging (that's up from 85 percent last year), and around 80 percent of employees use social networking sites for their jobs as well as for personal use. On average, an organization has 9.3 of these types of Internet applications in use by its employees.

The report surveyed over 500 employees and IT managers, over half of which work at organizations with over 1,000 employees.

Among the most surprising finds in the report, according to Cabri, 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.

Another red flag was when it came to data leaks at these organizations: four in 10 IT managers said they had experienced security incidents that were purposeful, while 27 percent had seen "unintentional release of corporate information" occur.

"37 percent of IT managers reported an incident of [someone] knowingly sending out confidential information that was a violation" of policy, Cabri says. "That seems to be a big number to deal with."

And those leaks came via social networking, IM, and peer-to-peer communications, he says.

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 percent), and spyware (57 percent).

The IT managers in the survey said they face an average of 34 security incidents per month, and bigger companies (over 5,000 employees) experience close to 70 a month.

Facetime's Cabri says the answer is IT and the user community finding a middle ground. "I would never advise a company to give access to each and every [Facebook app] to its users," for instance, he says. First, determine which Internet apps users are deploying and how they are using them, he says.

"The key is putting controls in place," Cabri says. You could allow Facebook, for instance, but only with business applications within the group and block chats, he says. "And you should be measuring and reporting on what they are doing" with it, he 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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