Report reveals corporate data clampdown in face of high-profile data breaches

According to the IT security vendor's latest annual WorldLifeWeb report, published today, some 77% of companies now monitor employee internet activity, whilst 70% block access to some sites.

Despite these seemingly draconian responses to high-profile data breaches, the report notes that 88% of managers acknowledge the business benefits of social media, with 31% of respondents say they are planning increased investment in social media this year.

Andrew Wyatt, Clearswift's COO, told Infosecurity that the problems highlighted in the report are the direct result of new technology - especially social media - being introduced to the workplace, and many managers are unable to grasp the risk-benefit issues that these services offer their companies.

“It's a big cultural change – most managers are simply not used to the present-day social networking environment,” he said, adding that more junior employees – who are in a younger age group – feel they have a right to access social networks in the workplace, when their managers take the opposite view”, he said.

So what's the solution?

Wyatt says that – as always in these situations – there needs to be more education on the security issues that social networks engender, and on both sides of the management/employee fence. It's important, he asserts, for managers and employees to both understand how social networks can benefit everyone, but only if they are accessed on a secure basis.

“I remember introducing email to a company environment a good few years back. We had to educate users on email etiquette, as many people had never experienced an email system. It's the same for social networks in the workplace. Education is needed,” he explained.

Wyatt went on to say that, whilst the IT infrastructure to allow the use of Web 2.0 services in the workplace – as well as the security to manage these services – is in place in many organisations, there is still a need for education on how the security works that is needed.

“31% of companies we spoke to said they were investing social media”, he said.

Delving into Clearswift report backs up Wyatt's analysis, as whilst 56% of managers say social media is allowed or encouraged within their organisation, only 27% of employees agree.

According to the report, the consumerisation of IT becomes more widespread, particularly with the introduction of the iPad and other tablets in the last 12 months, there is confusion between management and workers about the use of personal devices at work.

68% of companies, for example, state that they allow or encourage use, but only 46% of workers think this is the case. Interestingly, says the report, 27% of employees believe that social media and the use of personal devices are leading to an extension of the working day. This can, in part, be explained by distraction, with 73% of employees stating that email and social networking affects concentration.

Wyatt says that the research reveals that businesses have reacted to the series of high profile data leaks and have become increasingly nervous about its usage in the workplace.

“Rather than embracing new channels of communication, companies have clamped down and become overtly defensive which is consequently stifling potential avenues of growth”, he said.

“However, the research also provides evidence that businesses do recognise the importance of new technologies which leads me to believe that this is a knee jerk reaction rather than a long term trend”, he added.

Clearswift's June 2011 research for the report took in online responses from 1,529 employees and 906 managers in companies in the UK, US, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan. Respondents were screened for company size (250 employees or more) and for a mix of industry and functional specialities.

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