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Social Media Marketing

Sheri Atwood (US) - Are you Enabling Safe Social Networking?

Social Networking, Facebook, Twitter, forums. Everyday new information is released on how to leverage these forums to build or grow your business. While these sites and services offer tremendous benefit, they also present serious risks that have to be managed. Because these sites are a web ecosystem within the larger Web they offer multiple levels of information, applications and games. Universally blocking social networking applications is not acceptable to most organizations. Even the U.S. military opened social networking access to troops in 2010 so they could keep in touch with family, friends and associates. Since you can't completely block these applications, what can you do? The good news is, with the right security and optimization approach, you can enable social networking while protecting your organization.

Let's look at the risks associated with social networking in your organization:

Security: Threats such as malware, phishing and data loss are increasingly targeting social networking because the wide range of communication features makes it easier to spread untrustworthy messages or hazardous malware. By exploiting the trust factor inherent in social networking, malware can more easily bypass traditional security approaches by manipulating users to download malicious content that appears to come from a trusted source, such as a friend or familiar organization. Employees or partners may intentionally or accidentally leak sensitive company data onto a social networking site, breaches that can result in lost competitive information, public relations headaches, fines, legal action and more.

Bandwidth management: The rich media inherent in much of social networking's interactions, including online games, pictures, music, and video, consume vast amounts of bandwidth. In addition, watching live TV or sporting events is easier than ever to do at work. If left uncontrolled, streaming video to hundreds of systems at the same time can shut down access to your critical business applications. This leads to decreased user productivity and increased bandwidth costs.

Inappropriate Internet use: Recreational surfing and posting on personal blogs or social networking accounts not only diminish employee productivity, they can have other costs as well. If not properly managed, recreational network use can impact business application performance, create liability risks, and potentially introduce malware into the organization. Enforcing network usage policies and maintaining a secure web gateway are critical to ensuring optimum business performance.

The best practice, to protect your organization is to determine:

  1. What are your organizations' priorities around effective and appropriate social networking use?
  2. Are you leveraging a security approach that will analyze the threats to the higher level sites, such as Facebook, as well as all of the links and applications that occur within the site (such as Farmville and other applications)?
  3. Have you implemented a real-time web defense to ensure protection from the latest attacks?
  4. What attachments and postings are your employees putting on the web? How much risk does this information pose to the organization? Do you have a way to monitor this activity?
  5. How much bandwidth is being consumed by social or recreational traffic?

The lesson here is that standard security and traditional web defenses don't work to combat these new threats to your organization. A full-featured real-time Web defense, which includes monitoring, reporting, trend analysis and controls are required beyond what a firewall, antivirus, and URL filtering with a single category rating schema can provide. What your organizations allow in terms of social networking attachments and postings should be analyzed for malware delivery and data loss. Reporting and trend analysis must include in-depth understanding of social networking to review productivity and resource usage, including the impact to your bandwidth. The ultimate goal is to find the balance between achieving the productivity benefits of social networking while protecting the organization from dangerous threats.


Enable Safe Social Networking

Safe social networking requires an aggressive and layered security strategy at the web gateway, as well as the definition of new usage policies and priorities from management and IT. Better end-user education will also be required to ensure workers use social networking applications safely and appropriately. The combination of layered security and education can help organizations dramatically reduce the risks from malware, phishing, data loss and bandwidth abuse while still enabling your organization to strive in this new, social, world.

Sheri Atwood is Vice President, Americas Blue Coat . Visit: www.bluecoat.com for more information on how to protect your organization.

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