It’s not so long ago that I’d wonder what I did without my instant messaging client just to get through my working day. Not, you understand because I needed my latest fix of emoticon laden gossip with far flung friends, rather so that I could use Windows Live, Microsoft OCS, Lotus Sametime, Skype (yes I’m a serial IM’er) to get answers I needed from people who were online, rather than abandoning my question in a voicemail black hole.
My must have applications of choice now? Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for starters. And it appears I’m not the only one to join the social revolution. FaceTime’s June survey on social networking had over 87% of 1199 respondents using social networks, with 39% using a social network every day.
Now most of the folks I social network with are work related. And my communications are during the working day. And they respond in kind. (So.. there’s a Sherlock Holmes style deduction going on here) It’s elementary, my dear Watson, that they must therefore be using social networks in the workplace.
And our survey agrees with that. With a whopping 85% of respondents believing that their users are utilizing social networks from the corporate network. We’d been somewhat surprised earlier this week, when Chris Boyd, our Director of Research uncovered a keylogger on the kids popular social networking site Neopets. (Neopets (originally NeoPets) is a virtual pet website, based around the virtual pets that inhabit the virtual world of Neopia.)
Chris found hackers targeting 12 year olds – and probably their more affluent parents.
Interestingly, sites such as Neopets are accessed in corporate environments too – FaceTime collects live traffic data from commercially deployed Unified Security Gateway appliances at more than 80 mid to large enterprises worldwide that have opted into this program, representing the daily Web-based activities of more than 100,000 corporate workers.
During the past week, these corporate workers have accessed 99 different virtual worlds from their work computers, and at least half of those are targeted at children. Perhaps, as Chris suggests, the kids are asking their parents to check on their Neopets at work or see if the latest friend request on Myspace has been approved?
I guess it’s at this point in time that the corporate security folks start shaking their heads, and blocking access to social networks, updating those URL filters, tightening up the rules on the firewall. You know the drill.
Hold up. Whoa. Stop.
31% of our survey respondents reported that Social Networking is critical to business - but must be secure and compliant, citing business benefits from better employee communications to improved marketing communications, more efficient recruiting and faster decision times through collaboration as the key benefits that social networking delivers.
But that’s not all. 40% of our survey respondents derived their information about their employee social networking usage from URL filter logs. The Web 2.0 applications and real time communications tools that make up the social networks and the internet that we use today are highly evasive, specifically designed to get around Web filtering, firewalls and other traditional security solutions using a variety of techniques like port crawling, tunneling and onion routing. So the reality is probably that there is a lot more of this traffic that folks are just plain NOT SEEING, let alone managing.
I’ll leave you with the thought that our web 2.0 world is no longer about blocking (even if your traditional URL filter could..) it’s as we at FaceTime say (and our survey respondents agree with resoundingly) - our new social order needs enabling, just make sure that it’s done securely and compliantly.