With more and more staff using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace from work, plenty of businesses are asking the question: "If social networks are such a risk, shouldn't we just block them?"
When social networking Websites such as Facebook and MySpace first emerged, some businesses viewed them as a distraction from work and banned them. With the appearance of other social formats, such as Twitter, however, companies have begun to embrace this potential for collaboration. Social networking has evolved from personal networking to become a medium for mass communication. Many companies now view Websites such as Twitter as a valuable marketing channel.
“Given these new legitimate business uses, a policy banning these social networking Websites seems counterproductive,” says Simon Campell-Young, CEO of local security distribution house Phoenix Software. “While serious business roles exist for these tools, companies should still monitor how employees interact with them for security reasons.”
He points out that security experts have warned about the dangers of revealing personal information on social networks, and this is the first line of defence. "People are posting indiscriminately – they throw weird information out there. What has happened is there has been a growth in the technology for information sharing but not a commensurate education in what information we should share," he says. "The fact that social networks are so user friendly makes them dangerous. You don't mind your friends knowing where you live, or when your birthday is, or what your mother's maiden name is, but if the bad guys manage to hack into your friend's account, then they find out that information as well."
So, while a strict ban of social networking web sites may not be the answer, companies should consider creating and enforcing regulations on how they should be used, especially in relation to company business. A recent study conducted by IESE Business School in Spain, E. Philip Saunders, College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US, and Henley Business School in the UK, revealed that six out of seven companies don't have a formal policy on how social networks should be used within their businesses.
In addition to developing high-level policies for the use of social networks, there are some simple guidelines that managers can provide to staff to minimise the risks. Something as simple as creating separate passwords for each site, that are also different from log-ins for company systems, can be effective. Being generally cautious about who staff interact with and what applications they install is also a good guideline.
“In addition to following the advice above, every organisation needs a simple and powerful way to keep their business safe. AVG Internet Security Business Edition delivers complete protection for SMBs, businesses and enterprises seeking to protect their servers, workstations, networks and email systems,” Campbell-Young concludes.