IT Pros Lack Tools to Protect Enterprises From Social Media Risk

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 09-30-2011 Print Email
IT professionals have accepted there are positive benefits to using social media, but they lack the tools necessary to protect enterprises from cyber-threats that enter through social networking sites.

IT professionals consider social media as a positive business tool within the enterprise, but they were concerned they didn't have the right technology and policies to deal with the dangers, a recent report found.

The "Global Survey on Social Media Risks" from the Ponemon Institute released Sept. 29 surveyed 4,640 IT and IT security practitioners across the globe on the problems organizations face with increased use of social media. While respondents said they believed social networking technology played an important role within the organization, 63 percent agreed, or strongly agreed, that these tools represented a serious security threat to their organizations. Only 29 percent said their organizations had the necessary controls in place to mitigate or reduce the risks.

The biggest risks came from employees downloading malicious apps. This could take the form of employees downloading an instant messaging client that had malware embedded, or installing apps on social networking sites that trick users into downloading malware on the system. A little over half, or 52 percent, of respondents said their organizations had experienced an increase in malware attacks as a result of employees using social media. About 27 percent said the attacks had increased by more than 51 percent.

"The challenge they face is how to ensure the use of social media vehicles does not jeopardize the security of their organizations networks," Ponemon Institute wrote in the report. Respondents were also concerned about the lack of controls on what employees could post online as well as the fact that employees could be exposed to inappropriate data. Malware and data control weren't the only negative aspects of social media, the survey found. Respondents cited diminished employee productivity and excessive usage of Internet bandwidth as other issues.

Employees are using social media tools more often for non-business purposes than business, purposes, the report found.

More than half, or 65 percent, of respondents were unsure if the organization had an acceptable use policy for social media, or said the policy was not enforced. While 44 percent said there was a lack of governance and oversight, 43 percent felt other security issues took precedence. Another 41 percent said there were insufficient resources to monitor policy.

About 85 percent of respondents said it was acceptable to use social media tools to communicate within the company and 55 percent felt it was acceptable to use the technology to communicate outside the company. More than half felt social networking could be used as an email or texting channel. The survey used the word "friends" instead of "colleagues" or "business partners."

"Based on this response, we believe organizations consider social media a positive tool for encouraging collaboration and building internal relationships," the report's authors wrote.

Unacceptable use included downloading and watching videos during the workday or downloading apps and widgets from social media sites. Only 23 percent said videos were acceptable and 8 percent thought widgets were not a problem. Only 11 percent said it was acceptable to post "uncensored content" on social networking sites and another 11 percent said the same about posting to uncensored blogs. A mere 6 percent of respondents felt all the above activities were acceptable within the enterprise.


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