Is Social Media a Security Threat?

It’s one of the most serious security threats businesses face today, according to I.T. professionals, yet social media remains an important part of business today. But is this important marketing tool worth the risk? I.T. professionals aren’t so sure.

A recent study by Websense found that only 29 percent of I.T. professionals believe their companies have adequate protection against social media security breaches, according to Information Week. This survey, titled Global Survey on Social Media Risks, included experts with an average of ten years in the field of information technology. These professionals are already seeing problems associated with social media use.

According to I.T. workers, the biggest threat is from end users downloading apps associated with sites like Facebook. Many of these users do not realize these apps actually download software to their individual work PCs, along with associated spyware and viruses. In fact, I.T. professionals have logged countless hours cleaning up the damage caused by these supposed ‘harmless’ apps.

Another cause of malware has come from users clicking on third-party links on social media sites. Facebook has taken measures to prevent this, partnering with Websense to detect malicious links and warn users about them. Employees can also take their own precautions using an app called MyPageKeeper, which notifies the user if a malicious link has appeared on the person’s news feed or wall.

Another security concern for businesses is an inability to control user postings on social media sites. With many users having social networking sites locked down from public view, businesses have an inability to monitor postings by users. The fear, according to I.T. professionals, is that confidential information could be leaked via status updates without a business’s knowledge.

Another concern to businesses are the secrets that could be shared among “friends.” A co-worker at one company, for instance, could easily become a worker at a competitor. Without a business even being aware of it, an employee could be handing top secret news about your new product over to the one place you don’t want it to go.

Today’s small businesses are faced with a dilemma. With social media becoming such an important part of marketing, can businesses afford to block access to employees? Businesses are weighing company-wide blocks on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and even corporate networking site LinkedIn, against the value of social media in doing business. These sites can be essential to business networking, as small businesses have found. But security threats are only part of the problem. Businesses have found social media to be a productivity drain on companies, with many small businesses resorting to sites like Time Doctor to monitor workers’ actual productivity, rather than blocking certain sites altogether.

For companies concerned about security breaches, I.T. professionals urge the importance of having a company-wide security policy signed by each user. This policy protects the company, as well as stressing the importance of responsible use of office equipment to all employees.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

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