Social networking: Workplace productivity, security no match for Facebook

Findings from a recent survey conducted by Network Box Corp. gauge that use of Facebook and YouTube has risen 10% over the last quarter. Are companies prepared for the risks?

Company employees are increasingly spending their time using social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, according to new figures released by the managed security services company Network Box Corp .The recently published statistics raise both network security and performance concerns.

The Hong Kong-based company said that, since it carried out a similar study three months ago, usage of Facebook on corporate networks has risen by 10%, and the bandwidth consumed by YouTube on corporate networks has risen by a similar amount.

The top five websites visited from business addresses in Q2 2010
By percentage of employee hits:
  1. Facebook = 7.2%
  2. Google = 3.9%
  3. Yimg (Yahoo's image server) = 2.9%
  4. Yahoo = 2.3%
  5. Doubleclick = 1.6%

By percentage of corporate bandwidth used:

  1. YouTube = 10.2%
  2. Facebook = 5%
  3. Windows Updates =3.2%
  4. Yimg (Yahoo's image server) = 2.9%
  5. Google = 2.5%

"If [usage] were to continue at that rate, companies would need to be growing their bandwidth continuously to accommodate it," said Simon Heron, an Internet security analyst Network Box.

Network Box began analysing the social networking workplace traffic of its 30,000 global customers last November and has continued the exercise on a quarterly basis. The latest trawl analysed traffic between April and June 2010, tracking 14 billion URLs and 225,000 GB of bandwidth usage.

The most recent study found that just over 7% of all hits from business networks are to Facebook, with Google receiving the second most at 4%. In the sample period, Facebook clocked up 98 million more visits (totaling 1,008,046,041) in the second quarter of 2010 than it did in the first (which saw 909,710,076 hits), a rise of 10.8%.

YouTube, while trailing Facebook and Google in terms of hits from corporate networks, had a 10% increase in total visits compared to the previous quarter, and now accounts for 10.2% of the available corporate bandwidth.

This exponential increase in corporate social networking traffic raises serious security concerns. A recent survey by Check Point Technologies Ltd. found growing unease among security professionals over the dangers of social networking sites. Most of them felt that, unless users were properly trained and had clear policies to follow regarding the use of sites like Facebook, they could greatly increase their employers' risk to the threat of malware and data loss.

Heron said that some of the increase in social networking traffic probably comes from business-related use of the sites, as companies begin adopting them for marketing and publicity purposes. But he added that companies still need to be careful. "From a security point of view, I would be concerned. It does increase the threat to the company, especially if they have not put in protection to control Web 2.0 and the downloading of new apps," Heron said, "Very few companies have those controls yet."

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