Social networks a security threat to businesses

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Chicago (IL) – In a time when connecting directly with both your customer base and employee base is becoming more and more necessary and important, business are finding themselves struggling with the issue of protecting sensitive data and information due to employee practices.

Blogging is a great method of communication for both business owners and their client/customer base. Blogs are everywhere, and the majority of corporations have one utilized for delivering the most up to date information to their clients. Blogging has since made way for a plethora of other communication methods, including social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Nielsen Online‘s article entitled “Social Networking’s New Global Footprint,” claims that time spent in “member communities” is actually one out of every eleven minutes an individual spends online.

While these sites are excellent tools for the communication between employees, businesses and customers, unfortunately they are also quite possibly one of the easiest tools for hackers to utilize when attempting to gain entry into a corporate enterprise.

Regardless of how secure a company believes they are, nothing is impenetrable. IT departments now have to dig deeper and look harder as the linking of social networking sites amongst one another can cause a major headache.

For example, if an individual links their Facebook and Twitter accounts to one another and posts are automatically syndicated, then the replicated content is distributed making it quite difficult to remove items once they’ve been placed on the web. This interconnectivity of social networking sites can be a benefit to the individual using the site, but it can also be a major negative for some.

The problem

When you update your Facebook status on a personal level and that update is directly linked to your business site, this mix of information, crossing site boundaries, could potentially cause a major problem. For example, you could have individuals that are friends who work closely with your competition. Say you updated LinkedIn with sensitive company information (even something like a new job title), and it then updated your Facebook profile, which is read by a friend who works for your competitor, you’ve now opened the doors to some potentially major issues.

It is for this reason that many IT departments have been forced to filter URLs and block access to social networking sites. Unfortunately this isn’t the solution, as it is not your access that needs protecting, but rather your data.

In order for data protection to be in place, users must be educated. By being properly educated, knowing where data is stored, and handling who can access it, IT departments are better able to build policies and procedures for proper security and data protection.

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It is important that IT departments have access to historic Data patterns as well, which will give them the ability to control leaks of data in the future. Once it is determined how information is seeping out of the company, it is much easier to change the patterns and habits of individuals, thus preventing a repeat of that issue.

Another method of keeping data secure is to monitor data constantly and consistently so that data breaches are caught before they are caused.

It is important to speak to employees and explain how important the protection of the company data is. Having users build separate profiles for both their home and work use in the social networking world is also a great idea.

Conclusion

Social networks can be of enormous benefit to businesses, but they must be handled with extreme caution and with an attention to detail, or they could ultimately harm far more than they help because the power of this tool is known to their competition.

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