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August 5, 2008

Social networking sites leave corporate networks vulnerable: survey

An increasing number of people are visiting social networking sites at work, potentially exposing corporate networks to malicious attacks, according to research by security vendor Trend Micro.

By Steve Evans

The survey quizzed 1,600 corporate end users in the UK, US, Japan and Germany. It found that 19% of respondents had visited social networking sites while at work, an increase from 15% in 2007. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, are often built on Web 2.0 technology and are attractive to cybercriminals and malware authors who exploit their interactive nature and popularity to launch profit-driven, malicious attacks.

In the UK the percentage of end users who visited social networking sites at work rose from 11% in 2007 to 25% in 2008. In Germany that figure rose from 9% to 13%.

The survey found that the number of end users who browse social networking sites while on the company network is increasing faster in large companies than in small companies and that mobile workers in the UK are more likely to visit social networking sites than desktop workers.

Trend Micro also discovered that Web mail is the most commonly used Web 2.0 application, and 45% of end users admitted sending confidential information via Web mail. In the UK, the percentage of mobile end users who admitted sending confidential information via Web mail increased from 30% in 2007 to 49% in 2008.

Raimund Genes, chief technology officer at Trend Micro, said: “The popularity behind social networking sites makes them vulnerable targets of cybercriminals. Instead of threats being distributed as email attachments, we are seeing more of them being embedded into Web 2.0 links, many of them found on social networking sites. And, as these sites become more innovative and interactive, we expect to see more security breaches and cybercrime.”

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