Employees ignore or bypass security measures outlawing social networking

Businesses are being put at risk of losing data because employees are contravening policies which require that social networking sites are not accessed on corporate devices and systems. Others are circumventing restrictions which automatically block such services in order to gain access against the wishes of their managers.

This is according to a report authored by Cisco which shows that 50 per cent of employees do not abide by policies regulating access to social networking sites, while nearly a third claimed to have altered security settings on their smartphones and other portable devices belonging to the business, to enable banned applications to operate.

Cisco’s Spencer Parker said that it was increasingly difficult for businesses to protect data while completely outlawing certain widely used services and that this was a big problem because public cloud services like Google Docs were being blocked by firms to the detriment of productivity.

The study concludes that there need to be fundamental changes made to the data protection policies within businesses that accept the exponential growth of social networking sites, rather than fighting against them. This is not only necessary to prevent data loss, but also to maintain a positive public perception and fight against rivals on an even footing, according to Cisco.

Cisco’s John Stewart says that businesses will get nowhere by resisting the changes to the IT landscape and that the security industry and internal privacy policies must be adapted to make sure that new threats are identified and defended against before it is too late.

The biggest threat posed by social networks is not the networks themselves, but the third party applications which distract employees and can be used as conduits for malware.

Mr Stewart said that cybercriminals were developing techniques which can exploit popular titles like Farmville, some of which are played for up to an hour a day by certain sections of the workforce. This could be a backdoor into business systems, making it easy for thieves to steal private customer data and business secrets.

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