Social Media Marketing

Nigel Hawthorn (North America) - Social Networking Without the Risk Part 1

Being aware of the Risks

Social networking is fundamentally shifting the way we interact, communicate, organize, form opinions, and even shop; it’s blurring boundaries, increasing transparency and creating fluidity in everything we do. Linking a twelfth of society and growing rapidly, companies, large and small, can no longer ignore or try to block social networking in their environment. It’s a part of the fabric in which we now learn, play and work.
The reality is you you need to support social media in your environment to enable the innovation, increased productivity, and accelerated growth that will drive your business.

Social Networking Risks

The following are the top four risks you face when you use social networking:

1. Malware: In 2010, social media became the preferred communications vehicle for users, who are spending more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook alone, making social networking sites and their users ideal malware targets. According to Sophos, 40% of users were infected by malware from social networking sites. Typical attacks draw on the trust relationship established between users and their connections. They try to trick users into giving up information and access that can be exploited for financial gain. Some examples of malware particularly successful in social media are:

Phishing: With increasingly sophisticated techniques, attackers pose as one of your legitimate social networking connections and try to lure you into providing sensitive information, such as your login credentials. They prey on the tendency of most people to use the same passwords for all their accounts, hoping that by tricking you into giving one username and password they can get access to more profitable banking, financial and other online accounts.

Most users have their radar ON concerning financial accounts, but their daily login to a social networking site is just a speed bump, creating an opening for cybercriminals to steal online assets. This is why more and more phishing attacks are targeting seemingly “nonrelevant” online user accounts.

Click-jacking: Attackers lure you into clicking on a link, perhaps posting it on your wall and then spamming your friends to “check it out,” or “view my photos.” When someone clicks on the link, they unwittingly install malware (code or script) that can be used to steal information or take control over their computer. Clickjacking uses the dynamic nature of social networking and a willingness to click on links from those you know, and even those you don’t, to quickly reach a large audience, cajole you into revealing private information (e.g. through surveys), collect hits for ad revenue, and eventually allow access to your entire social network.

2. Data Loss: Social networking is about making connections and sharing experiences and information, however, sometimes that information is not meant to be made public. It’s not uncommon for people to inadvertently post confidential information – “hey, I just met with xxx and I think I am about to make a huge commission,” or “I’m pulling my hair out, if we can’t fix this software bug soon, I don’t know that I will ever sleep again,” that provides “insider knowledge.” There have also been cases in which employees have unintentionally posted proprietary software code to social networking sites, exposing sensitive intellectual property. These actions, though unintentional, can potentially violate industry specific regulations, impact your reputation, or put you at a competitive disadvantage.

3. Bandwidth Consumption: As much as 40% of employees report that they are on social networking sites at work, creating a potential strain on bandwidth to the detriment of other business applications. Last year, when the U.S. government mandated open access to social networks, traffic on the network increased by 25%. Video alone (think of all the videos your friends share and you link to through Facebook or Twitter), can overwhelm many networks. A single video stream usually consumes between 500k to 1.2 Mbps (and that’s not even HD, which can be up to 4 to 7 Mbps), and when you have tens or hundreds of people accessing videos it’s easy to see how overall performance can degrade.

4. Productivity Loss: Social networking sites are becoming online destinations, enabling you to post and read messages, date, shop, upload or check out videos, and play games. This makes them increasingly convenient and engaging for users, drawing them to spend more and more time there, as well as increasingly challenging for the business to appropriately control. When unchecked, the time spent on social networking sites can affect productivity, as your employees spend more and more time (think back on the 700 billion minutes on Facebook) playing Farmville during business hours.

Nigel Hawthorn, vp of marketing (EMEA), Blue Coat Systems


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