Are Social Networking Sites Harmful?

Recently, we have been bombarded by information on the pros and cons of social networking sites. While we in the IT industry may think it could just be a trend, but it is really fast catching up. Even mobile phones have promos where you can avail of browsing social networking sites at a fixed cost per day, the usage of these sites may have such pros and cons.

It may be fun, but if we look at it at another prospective, it is a breeding ground for nasties in the web. A lot of surveys and statistics have come out lately detailing how much of a risk social media presents, most especially to employers. It has become the delivery method of choice for bot masters and malware fiends; it is rapidly becoming the medium du jour for scam artists; and it presents an ever present and growing risk of accidental disclosures.

If you’re using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any one of the other 3,247 social networks on the job, you may be putting both your employer and yourself in harms way.

Let’s look at some of the numbers.

  • Social media users are 10x more likely to fall for a malware scam by clicking an unsafe link than email users. Around 10% of nasty sites end up being clicked, vs. 1% of email nasties. The reason? People are more trusting on social sites than anywhere else. Or, it could be the fact that people are now educated on handling e-mail links.
  • 20% of organizations has suffered a leak of sensitive, confidential or private information via social network sites.
  • 33% of SMEs have malware infestation coming from a social network site. 1/3 of these figures costs around Php 250,000 or more to clean up.
  • Nearly 90% of the report say that they had their privacy violated.
  • 80% reported bandwidth wastage.

Roughly a third of SMBs ban social media use at work. Odds are, though, they just think they’re banning them. In fact, studies have shown that social media apps are now present in 90% of company networks. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the most popular app, but Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn are all above 80 percent.

If you’re an IT personnel who believes you’ve successfully booted social media apps from your company’s premises, better check again.

Of course, the sources for most of these stats are security companies whose goal is to sell you software. And of course, there are only four kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, statistics, and campaign promises. Still, these numbers ring true to me.

Should you stop using social media altogether? No. But you and your company need to be smarter about what you say and do on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al.  Because the bad guys are watching, and they aren’t messing around.


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