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November 9, 2009

Social network sites explode in the enterprise: survey

But Facebook, Twitter bring new security challenges

By Steve Evans

The use of social networks as business tools has skyrocketed over the last six months, according to firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks.

Security issues surrounding the use of Web 2.0 applications goes far beyond the loss of productivity, the report claimed. Despite this many firms have an IT infrastructure and usage policies that may not adequately protect their business from the threats.

Palo Alto’s Application Usage and Risk Report revealed that the use of traditionally-consumer social network tools are crossing into the enterprise far faster that earlier tools such as IM. Twitter session usage grew more than 250% from the previous Report, while Facebook saw a 192% increase.

Facebook Chat, unveiled in April 2009, has quickly climbed to be the forth most popular instant messaging (IM) platform.

“We know that workers are using these applications to help them get their jobs done, with or without approval from their IT departments. And now we know this is happening much faster than anticipated. It’s naïve to think that old-school security practices can handle this deluge,” said Rene Bonvanie, Palo Alto Networks vice president of worldwide marketing.

The report claims to have discovered 255 Enterprise 2.0 applications, of which 70% are capable of transferring files, 64% have known vulnerabilities, 28% are known to propagate malware, and 16% can tunnel other applications.

The report uses the example of the Koobface, a worm that targeted Facebook users to steal their account details and personal information.

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Although these threats present a real danger to businesses, blocking access entirely could have a negative impact on business, Bonvanie said. “Organisations must realise that banning or allowing specific applications in a black-and-white fashion is bad for business. They need a new approach that allows for shades of gray by enforcing appropriate application usage policies tailored for their workforce. This is a radical and necessary shift for today’s IT security professionals.”


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