What You Need To Know About Social Networking

Social and business networking sites are changing the way people talk online. Sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo help friends stay in touch while LinkedIn and Plaxo mainly connect business users.

They are very popular but present challenges to small business owners. You can visit our website, www.MySpaceDisorder.com for our warnings about MySpace.

These sites seem to have come out of nowhere. For example, Facebook was founded in May, 2007, and currently has 70 million users. The rapid growth of such sites is part of the problem – you risk being caught off guard. Here are some of the top risks social networking sites pose to your business, and ways to manage that risk.

Inadvertent disclosure of confidential information is a large risk. You wouldn’t publish your organization chart and phone directory on the internet; but a head-hunter or identity thief can use information on social networking sites to reconstruct this kind of information.

Reputation risk
There is also a risk to your company’s reputation. Social networking is more public and less formal than company email. It is also easier to use than blog software. It’s easy to imagine employees posting pictures or text that would embarrass their employer.

Social networking sites can be addictive and timeconsuming. Cyber-slacking is a genuine concern, and difficult to control and monitor without security enhancements to your network.

Viruses and spyware
Social networking sites often display advertisements. At Tech Experts, we’ve observed that some of these advertisements have caused virus and spyware infections.

Broken privacy and identity theft
Some sites also allow third parties to run applications that have access to user profiles. This is a potential privacy risk. People publish a wealth of personal information in their profiles. This makes social networking sites a happy hunting ground for identity thieves and conmen.

We recommend that companies give serious thought to social networking and how they want to manage the risk.

Make sure your network is protected against web-borne viruses. At a minimum, every computer on your network should have current and automatically updated anti-virus software. For an enhanced layer of protection, install a firewall device that provides multi-layered protection against existing and emerging malware.

Have a clear and comprehensive Acceptable Use Policy in place. Ensure that employees are aware of what they can and cannot do on your company’s network. Review and update it often.

Set Rules for Personal Use. Use your company policy manual to spell out exactly how much personal web surfing is allowed, when, with whom, and under what circumstances. Of course, we recommend none.

Enforce your policies with an appropriate technology. This mean installing web monitoring and blocking software on each computer, or installing a network-wide security appliance.

No matter which option you choose, make sure you actively monitor usage, publish a usage policy, and keep that policy updated as new sites and threats emerge.