Organisations encouraged to control rather than block applications, as standard communication techniques become more prevalent

News by Dan Raywood

Social networking applications continue to be used in a largely unmonitored and uncontrolled manner and introduce significant inbound and outbound risks.

Social networking applications continue to be used in a largely unmonitored and uncontrolled manner and introduce significant inbound and outbound risks.

Despite the benefits offered to businesses, it has been claimed that the use of social networking applications introduce inbound risks such as malware and vulnerability exploits and outbound risks, such as data loss and inadvertent sharing of private or proprietary data. However businesses still fail to control access to social applications and generally choose to block them, according to a report by Palo Alto Networks.

It identified patterns that can be summarised as ‘saying, sharing or socialising' when it comes to the type and use of applications. The saying applications, including webmail and instant messaging applications, are still used in a largely unmonitored and uncontrolled manner and all use either hop ports or fixed ports that are not TCP/80 or TCP/443, which means that these applications cannot be easily monitored to control the related business and security risks.

Sharing applications include browser-based file sharing applications, which have steadily grown in popularity to the point where they are now used more frequently than P2P or FTP. Using RapidShare, Megaopload or MediaFire, users can now upload their content and allow it to be indexed by one of the many affiliated search engines.

Finally, socialising applications include typical social networking sites such as Facebook. The report claims that the bulk of the traffic (88 per cent) is the use of Facebook pages, yet Facebook posting represents only 1.4 per cent of the traffic.

Nir Zuk, CTO and founder of Palo Alto Networks, told SC Magazine that the data is collected from customer usage of its technology and this has led to the realisation that the use of most of the applications are beyond traditional web and email usage.

He said: “The prevalent use of instant messenger, Software-as-a-Service and next-generation enterprise applications such as WebEx and SharePoint shows that you cannot block applications, but companies say that they cannot control Facebook, Gmail and WebEx so they block it instead. Then they still see it on the network, but it is not only about control but security.

“Version one was a need to block and now version two is that you need to control applications and it is important to understand that Facebook is like email and security needs to run on the applications, it is not just a case of run or block.”


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