Social Media Use Tied to Increase in Malware Infections

With the use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ becoming more and more prevalent in the enterprise, companies are having to come to grips with additional security concerns that they bring with them. But, according to the results of a new survey of IT and security professionals, that process is still in its early stages in many companies.

Social media malwareWith the use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ becoming more and more prevalent in the enterprise, companies are having to come to grips with additional security concerns that they bring with them. But, according to the results of a new survey of IT and security professionals, that process is still in its early stages in many companies.

The survey, conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Websense, found that a large number of companies believe that they are seeing an increase in malware infections and other security incidents as a result of the use of social media in the enterprise. For example, 54 percent of respondents said that they had already seen or were very likely to see soon a loss of confidential information or a violation of a confidentiality policy because of employees’ social media activities. And 52 percent of those surveyed said that they had seen an increase in malware attacks as a result of social media use.

It’s not clear how the survey’s respondents were able to identify that an increase in malware infections was specifically due to employee use of social media, however.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in particular have become playgrounds for attackers, spammers and others looking to victimize users through a variety of methods. For several years now, attackers have been using Twitter to push victims to malicious sites through the use of the automatically shortened URLs that are the rule on the service. It’s often impossible to tell what the actual destination of the URL is until it’s too late and the user has hit the site. Spammers also use the same technique to direct people to sites selling fake pharmaceuticals or porn. Facebook, too, has its share of this kind of activity.

Ponemon surveyed more than 4,000 people in 12 countries, including the United States, the U.K., Germany, France and Italy. Unsurprisingly, the survey found some major differences in the way that social media and the security of the platforms is handled in various countries around the world.

Specifically, the survey found that, despite the clear potential risks involved in employee use of social media platforms, only 32 percent of organizations in the U.S. had a corporate policy that governs their use by employees. By contrast, 60 percent of German companies had such a policy and just 22 percent of Italian firms had one. Still, more than 50 percent of respondents in every country surveyed said that social media usage was essential to meeting the company’s business goals. In the U.S., 67 percent said that was so, and 80 percent said the same in the U.K.

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