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Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/23/2010
10:17 AM
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Employees Flout Social Network Security Policies

Many people admit changing settings on business devices to access prohibited sites from the workplace, finds Cisco.

Enterprises' current social networking policies apparently are preventing employees from accessing these sites on company time, according to new research from Cisco.

After all, 50% of the employees polled in the Cisco 2010 Midyear Security Report, released Thursday, admitted to ignoring corporate policies banning the use of social media tools, and said they logged on to these sites at least once a week from their company computer. More than one quarter said they change the settings on business devices to access prohibited applications, the study found.

In a related study, Cisco Security Intelligence Operations found that 7% of a worldwide sample of users on Facebook spent an average of 68 minutes per day on the game Farmville, 5% spent an average 52 minutes daily playing Mafia Wars, and 4% doodled away an average of 36 minutes on Cafe World.

"Technological innovations are fundamentally changing the way people live, work, play, share information, and communicate with each other. Because consumers are typically the early adopters, enterprises often struggle to adapt existing polices to address their employees' preferred use of technology," said John N. Stewart, Cisco VP and chief security officer, in a statement. "With a number of tectonic forces converging in the marketplace, now is the time for enterprises to transform their IT model to accommodate the emerging borderless network and increasing security challenges."

While the lure of social networks proves too strong for many employees to overcome, cybercriminals also are increasing their efforts to gain traction in this arena. Cybercriminals use social media to commit crimes, enhance communication, and speed transactions with each other, according to Cisco. In fact, the United States government has awarded grants to examine how social networks and other technologies can be used to organize, coordinate, and incite potential attacks, Cisco said.

Experts are concerned that criminals will use popular games to deliver malware to unsuspecting users and their networks.

Enterprises also are grappling with security issues surrounding virtualization and the ever-expanding array and scope of mobile devices. To address these challenges, Cisco recommends businesses enforce granular per-user policies for access to applications and data on virtualized systems; create a formal policy for mobility; set strict business-data limits; use tools to manage and monitor the cloud and related activities; and give employees stronger, consistent guidance for their use of social media in the workplace.

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