Businesses must prepare for the profusion of security risks that will occur as employees use more consumer technologies, Gartner has warned.

Workers are expected to increasingly use personal equipment and services at work, which leaves organisations exposed to security threats, according to the IT analysts.

The research company emphasised that personal email, IM, voice over IP (VoIP), the growing use of blogs, social networking sites and other web 2.0 services creates the risk of data leaks and provides additional channels for malicious software to enter the organisation. The recent surge in unmanaged mobile devices and wireless networks as increasing numbers of employees work remotely is also a target for malicious code.

“Although consumer technologies create new risks for the enterprise, eliminating their use is increasingly difficult, and impractical,” said Rich Mogull, research vice president for Gartner. “By taking security precautions and investing in foundational security technologies now, businesses can prepare themselves for increasing use of consumer devices, services and networks with their organisation, and manage these risks.”

Mogull warned that most businesses will be unable to completely block these services for cultural and technical reasons, but emphasised that the security software is available to reduce the risks they create.

“Enterprises can look at a vector for malicious software or violations of corporate communications policies. Current acceptable use policies often do not cover these areas, and traditional e-mail security or firewalls and URL filtering do not deal with them effectively,” he added.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, agreed with the comments from Gartner: “For too long the users have been running the asylum. It may not make the IT administrators popular, but they need to start controlling which consumer technologies can be used at work.”