Companies have outdated IT infrastructure and usage policies that may fail to protect them from growing risks.

According to the fourth application usage and risk report by Palo Alto Networks, the use of social networking and collaborative applications for business purposes has skyrocketed in the last six months.

However with increased adoption of web-based applications, there are new business and security risks that go far beyond potential productivity losses. It claimed that 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.

Specific findings from the research found that the average Twitter session grew by more than 250 per cent, Facebook use increased 192 per cent while Facebook Chat (released in April 2008) was the fourth most commonly detected chat application, ahead of both Yahoo and AOL instant messenger.

The analysis also discovered that of 255 Enterprise 2.0 applications – of which 70 per cent are capable of transferring files - 64 per cent have known vulnerabilities, 28 per cent are known to propagate malware, and 16 per cent can tunnel other applications.

Rene Bonvanie, Palo Alto Networks vice president of worldwide marketing, said: “We know that workers are using these applications to help them get their jobs done, with or without approval from their IT departments. Now we know this is happening much faster than anticipated. It's naïve to think that old-school security practices can handle this deluge.

“Organisations must realise 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.”