August 29, 2014

Social Security: Addressing the 3 Big Threats Around Social Media in the Enterprise

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As companies grapple with how to incorporate social media in their everyday business practices, a topic we’ve covered in posts including this one, they also need to be concerned about the threats social media presents. But the threats you really need to worry about may not be the ones that immediately come to mind, according to Thorsten Behrens, lead IT Security architect for Carousel Industries.

Asked what he sees as the main threats with respect to social media, Behrens doesn’t hesitate: “Productivity, reputation and complying with regulations that say all communications about a company must be audited,” he says.

You may be thinking, “But what about malware?” Malware does exist on some social media sites, but Behrens says the sites are not a major vector for malware, at least not yet. And the tools that companies have in place to detect malware should work on any that does come in via social media sites.

Combating productivity lost to social media sites

That leaves productivity, reputation and compliance as the chief threats. As we’ve covered previously, the productivity issue is a significant one. As e-week reported:

Nearly 60 percent of work interruptions now involve either using tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45 percent of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53 percent waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions, the report found.

That hour per day translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person annually, assuming an average salary of $30 per hour. That is more than the average U.S. driver will spend this year to own and maintain a car, the report noted. For businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year.

To fight back, businesses can employ application-aware firewalls that provide fine-grained control over which users are allowed to visit which sites, and when. The marketing department, for example, may be allowed to use Facebook to post business-related items but could be blocked from playing games and using other applications. Other employees may be blocked entirely, or could be allowed to use Facebook for 30 to 60 minutes during their lunch break. Such restrictions can be programmed into an application-aware firewall, such as those available from Carousel partners’ Fortinet and Aruba.

Services to keep you in compliance while using social media

Addressing the reputation and compliance issues is a bit trickier, Behrens says. To keep in compliance with various industry regulations, some companies need to log and audit every entry to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. To address the reputation issue, companies may want to add an approval function, which requires someone other than the post’s author to approve each post before it is published.

Those jobs are more difficult because the employees posting to such sites may do it from anywhere, not necessarily the corporate office, so on-premises equipment won’t do the trick.

Presence Management

Third-party cloud-based media dashboard services, however, will monitor and record every entry to social media sites, Behrens says. Companies such as MediaFunnel and HootSuite have tools that address both the reputation and compliance issues, while also adding various features that help companies track what others are saying about them on social media sites.

To learn more about how to employ social media without sacrificing productivity, reputation or compliance, get in touch with the experts at Carousel.