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Posted by Chenxi Wang on December 1, 2009
To Facebook or not to Facebook? Forrester recently received a flurry of inquiries concerning social network access inside enterprises. Many firms are reluctant to deny their employees’ access to social networking sites but at the same time are worried about consequences such as malware threat, data loss, and the loss of productivity.
More specifically, risks associated with social networking come in three flavors:
Should you allow access to social networks and social media? The answer is “yes”. Even if you do not currently allow access to social networks, you will have to soon — access to social networks is approaching the status of a “must-have” at work places. Competitive pressure will sooner or later make you rethink your restrictive stance on social network access. One question we often get asked is: “How many firms out there are allowing access vs. denying access to social networks?” We do not have an accurate answer to that. A small survey we conducted in the beginning of this year indicated that today nearly 40% of companies (enterprises and SMBs) allow access to social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
What best practices should you follow in regulating access to social networking and media sites?
First, you need to establish an acceptable-usage policy with respect to social networking and media access. Consider these aspects when writing your policies:
Second, you need to clearly communicate the policies to your users and educate them on the risks of social networking and acceptable usages with regards to data posts and software downloads. Make it clear that these security threats are not just against individuals, but also have the potential to compromise the security posture of the corporate environment.
Lastly, if you decide to enforce your policies (if any) technologically instead of simply stating the policies and hoping for compliance, you need to employ a Web filtering product (you probably want one regardless for anti-malware reasons). You may also want the product to collect and report usage statistics on your users. For any outlier population, e.g., the a few employees who spend an exorbitant amount of time on social networks, his/her manager can be made aware of the situation and deal with it in an appropriate way. Often, just the knowledge that access to social networks is monitored would curtail such behaviors. Be mindful that not every Web filtering product is equipped to deal with script-based Web malware. The ones that come with an antivirus engine but no script processing capabilities do not fit the bill. Finally, it is imperative that the Web filtering product comes with data leak prevention (DLP) capabilities to enforce acceptable usage policies for data posts.
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