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Five Security Risks of Social Networking Websites

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 1/28/2012

Social networking is big. Really big. But could it mean that it is just as big a threat for the small businesses and enterprises? Out of the whopping 70 million odd people on Facebook alone, could our employees be a part of it? What are the risks of social networking for a small business?

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    Once upon a time, sexually explicit content was the reigning king in the list of “websites to be banned for surfing at work". Recently another category can be added to the list: social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook and Bebo. Companies all over the world bear with the fact that over 45% of the employee’s productive time goes wasted on these sites. Organizations, the world over, are alarmed at these growth figures and the statistics, but why? Have you ever given it a thought? What is the harm in employees meeting friends on-line? Here they are:

    Identity theft: Some of these sites allow third-party applications to run that have access to the said user’s profile. Think about what kind of risk that brings about, to a company and that individual. Tons of cookies downloaded, data given out for free. Individuals using these sites tend to trust it all somehow and give away a wealth of private information. Isn’t this going to be a happy hub of some sort where all the Identity thieves can come together and exploit the riches of this information?

    Employee misdeeds: Disclosure of company’s confidential information is punishable by law. Of course you know that that your employees know that too. However, while their prowl on these social networking sites and give away their personal information, they also mention where they work. Now identity thieves can reconstruct all sorts of information (actually, confidential but still constructible) from similar profiles and mis-use that information.

    Legal problems:Monitoring social networking can be tricky in the first place, depending on where are you are geographically. For instance, Australian law mandates that the employees be informed first hand their computer use is being watched and this is an obligation on the part of an Australian employer, even though the employer is allowed to keep vigil.

    What about business reputation?: What could yan employee posting pictures do to your business establishment on one of these social networks? What about a disgruntled employee who seeks to find solace in the sweet act of revenge and goes out to harm the company in some way by discrediting the reputation of the company in some way? These social networking sites are easy to use and don’t need one to beIT savvy and hence there are more chances of a reputation maligning act spreading fast, if left unchecked.

    Internet threats: Not withstanding any of the risks mentioned above, one of the biggest threats will come from viruses, spy ware and malware and if a company allows these sites on their network, there are chances of network-wide jeopardy. Ads and banners now have scumware and hidden codes behind them that can wreak havoc on a system.