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Facebook, Twitter Usage Increases Companies’ Security Risks

Virus and malware attacks against organizations have increased because of employees using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media in the workplace, according to a global study.

Of the 4,640 organizations surveyed by the Ponemon Institute, a research firm, more than half said these computer attacks grew as a result of workers using social networks. About a quarter of those respondents said the attacks rose by more than 50 percent.

As social media services play a bigger role in businesses, many organizations find themselves ill-equipped to handle the accompanying security risks, according to the report. Researchers surveyed information-technology employees at organizations in the U.S., India, Brazil, Germany and elsewhere, and found that only 35 percent had a policy on using social media at work. Of those, 35 percent enforce it.

“A lot of organizations still didn’t have an acceptable use policy,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Traverse City, Michigan-based firm. For those with social-media rules in place, “a policy that isn’t vigorously enforced isn’t meaningful,” he said.

The virus and malware attacks use a simple approach to attract victims, according to security company Websense Inc., which sponsored the survey.

Click Trick

“Most attacks are socially engineered driven,” said Patrik Runald, a researcher at San Diego-based Websense. Users may be enticed to click on a video, for example, “which takes you to a page off of Facebook, where they trick you into downloading something.”

Other findings from the report, titled “Global Survey on Social Media Risks,” which was conducted in July:

-- In the U.S., respondents said workers spent an average of 62 minutes each day using social media for personal reasons, compared with 37 minutes for business purposes. In Germany, it was the opposite: Sixty-six minutes for work reasons and 19 minutes for nonbusiness purposes.

-- Almost 60 percent of the organizations increased their Internet bandwidth to accommodate employees’ use of social media in the past 12 months.

-- Social media is essential or very important to meeting business objectives for 67 percent of respondents.

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