Why Security Matters Now

By , CIO |  Security, Social Networking

Top IT Security Priorities

New investments are focused on protecting data, authenticating users

1. Biometrics

2. Web content filters

3. Data leakage prevention

4. Disposable passwords/smart cards/tokens

5. Reduced or single-sign-on software

6. Voice-over-IP security

7. Web 2.0 security

8. Identity management

9. Encryption of removable media

TREND #1

The Promise and Peril of Social Networking

In less than two years, social networking has gone from an abstract curiosity to a way of life for many people. When someone updates their status on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, they might do it at work by day or on company-owned laptops from home at night.

What gives IT executives heartburn is the ease with which users could share customer data or sensitive company activities while they're telling you what they're having for lunch. Cyberoutlaws know this and use social networks to launch phishing scams. In one popular attack, they send their victims messages that appear to be coming from a Facebook friend. The "friend" may send along a URL they insist you check out. It may be pitched as a news story about Michael Jackson's death or a list of stock tips. In reality, the link takes the victim to a shady website that automatically drops malware onto the computer. The malware goes off in search of any valuable data stored on the computer or wider company network, be it customer credit card numbers or the secret recipe for a new cancer-fighting drug.

It's no surprise, then, that every IT leader surveyed admitted they fear social-engineering-based attacks. Forty-five percent specifically fear the phishing schemes against Web 2.0 applications.

Nevertheless, for many company executives, blocking social networking is out of the question because of its potential business benefits. Companies now clamor to get their messages out through these sites, so the challenge for CIOs is to find the right balance between security and usability.

"People are still incredibly naïve about how much they should share with others, and we have to do a better job educating them about what is and isn't appropriate to share," says H. Frank Cervone, vice chancellor of information services with Purdue University Calumet. "We have to do a better job of enhancing our understanding of what internal organization information should not be shared."

But in a university setting, it's critical to engage people through social media, Cervone adds. Even in the commercial sector, he doesn't see how organizations can avoid it.

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