Data Breaches Cause Firms To Ban Social Media

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One in three companies block social media sites at work, because of fears of data breaches

UK business has responded to this year’s high profile data breaches by tightening control over employees’ use of social media.

A survey of UK companies by security firm Clearswift found nearly a third are blocking employees from accessing social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

This is up 20 percent from last year according to the study and 53 percent of managers identified social network use as an issue of concern.

Data beaches like those suffered by Sony have made UK businesses nervous about social media in the workplace said Clearswift COO Andrew Wyatt.

He said: “Rather than embracing new channels of communication, companies have clamped down and become overtly defensive which is consequently stifling potential avenues of growth.

“However, the research also provides evidence that businesses do recognise the importance of new technologies which leads me to believe that this is a knee jerk reaction rather than a long term trend.”

Confusion and contradiction

The study paints a picture of confusion and contradictions in UK businesses over social media tools. Ninety-one percent are so concerned about security and data loss that it’s preventing technology adoption. But, 88 percent of managers acknowledge the business benefits of social media and 31 percent are planning increased investment in social media this year.

Paradoxically, 48 percent of companies said they are convinced that the benefits of social media outweigh the drawbacks yet only 12 percent of companies are using it as a tool for growth.

The Financial Times yesterday reported a number of examples of how companies’ approaches to social media in the workplace differ.

At Royal Dutch Shell, employees are not prevented from accessing Facebook but a pop-up warning reminds them not to access personal sites on company time. told them it had traditionally been relaxed about the issue but was looking at issuing guidance to staff for the first time.

Heavy handed response

Responding to the survey, Ash Patel, country manager for UK and Ireland at Stonesoft by warning that, while strict policies were necessary to protect confidential company information, firms risk demoralising staff with a heavy handed approach.

“There are also many technologies that can control who can and cannot access such sites,  how long they spend on them, and what time of day they are able to access them. However, these measures can seem rather harsh,” he said.

He recommends monitoring network traffic with firewall and IPS appliances instead.

Separate research by global risk consultancy Protiviti found that 17 percent of UK employees share their employers’ concerns and consider social networking sites a major risk to corporate security.

The research also found that three in ten believe that social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn pose a real risk to their own personal security.

Jonathan Wyatt, Managing Director, Protiviti UK said: “The big challenge for organisations is that public and private use of social networking sites has blurred. On one hand, employees are using social networking tools for managing activities in their private life – but accessing these tools from corporate systems. On the other hand, employees are being asked to carry out specific tasks relating to work via the same social networks.”

Meanwhile, eWEEK Europe UK’s own survey of readers found that LinkedIn was the social network of choice, choice followed by Google+ and then Facebook. But earlier in the year readers told us social networks were a waste of time.

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