72% of businesses now block access to social networking sites

According to research just released by Kaspersky Lab, almost three quarters of companies worldwide (72%) now block access to social networking sites. This is despite the fact that social networking sites are experiencing a boom, which the Russian-headquartered IT security firm says that companies are attempting to thwart.

In fact, says Kaspersky, when it comes to using Facebook and similar sites at work, many companies are very strict. They simply block access to such sites from corporate networks in order to prevent their staff from frittering away their working hours on them.

David Emm, the security vendor's senior security researcher, says that many organisations are concerned about the potential negative impact social networking may have on their business.

This is, he notes, understandably so, as on the one hand, they are worried that it will adversely affect productivity, i.e. that employees will waste time accessing Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, instead of focusing on work.

“This is not something new – companies have been concerned about this ever since the web became widely used. On the other hand, they are concerned about the security aspects of social networking”, he said.

“Cybercriminals are like real-world pickpockets – they 'work' the crowds: and today the online 'crowds' are to be found in social networks. So it is hardly surprising that the volume of malware spreading through social networks has increased, and is increasing, steadily”, he added.

Emm went on to say that the other potential security problem is less obvious: social networks are filled with masses of personal data. And as this data can be used by cybercriminals, not only to profile individuals, but also organisations, they trawl through social networks for information that will help them develop a unique attack against their chosen target.

“It's not all negative, of course. Many businesses have discovered that judicious use of social networks can bring a corporate benefit – for example, to enhance the corporate brand, or for recruitment. I believe there's a historical parallel here”, he said.

“In the first half of the 1990s, many organisations feared the security implications of providing e-mail access to employees. But in time it became clear that the benefits outweighed the potential dangers. And by the time we entered the new millennium, e-mail had become ubiquitous”, he added.

“I believe the same is true for social networks. If I am right, businesses should think less about holding back the tide than ensuring that effective sea defences are in place.”


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