Web 2.0 fast becoming part of business applications

Web 2.0 applications like Facebook and Twitter are taking the technology world by storm. The number of users are rising in tremedous phase, something the corporate world cannot ignore. That is why even companies are joining the bandwagon. And why not – companies wants to be in a place where their market is.

According to a new study released by corporate computer network firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks, the use of social networking and collaborative applications in the workplace has increased dramatically in the past six months and their crossover from personal to business applications is accelerating.

Despite many enterprises’ attempts to block these applications, the rate at which they are making the crossover from personal to business use is happening faster than previous crossovers, such as instant messaging (IM). The use of a social networking application can bring measurable business benefits, but not without introducing business and security risks. These Enterprise 2.0 applications can transfer files, propagate malware, and have known vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

Some specific findings from the research include:

– Twitter session use grew more than 250 percent from the Spring 2009 edition of the Application Usage and Risk Report, published in April.

– Facebook use increased 192 percent while Facebook Chat was the fourth most commonly detected chat application, ahead of Yahoo! IM and AIM.

– SharePoint collaboration is ubiquitous – bandwidth consumed by SharePoint, specifically the documents component, increased 17-fold from the previous report in April.

– Blogging and wiki editing increased by a factor of 39, while total bandwidth consumed increased by a factor of 48.

Social networking and collaborative applications are increasingly considered to be Enterprise 2.0 applications, along with messaging of all types, conferencing, and VoIP. These business-enabling applications are not threats, yet they pose risks to enterprise networks.

The analysis discovered 255 Enterprise 2.0 applications – of which 70 percent are capable of transferring files, 64 percent have known vulnerabilities, 28 percent are known to propagate malware, and 16 percent can tunnel other applications. Examples of new threats introduced to enterprise networks by applications such as Facebook include Koobface, Fbaction and Boface, which all target social networking applications to hijack accounts and personal data.

“We know that workers are using these applications to help them get their jobs done, with or without approval from their IT departments. And now we know this is happening much faster than anticipated. It’s naïve to think that old-school security practices can handle this deluge,” said Rene Bonvanie, Palo Alto Networks vice president of worldwide marketing. “Organizations must realize that banning or allowing specific applications in a black-and-white fashion is bad for business. They need a new approach that allows for shades of gray by enforcing appropriate application usage policies tailored for their workforce. This is a radical and necessary shift for today’s IT security professionals.”

Enjoy the power of Web 2.0 but be cautious always what dangers it may bring if any. Better safe than sorry.

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