Employee access to social networks is blocked by half of small and midsized business, security firm Webroot reports. The company's survey also found that malware and data leakage were the top social network fears.The threats posed by social networks -- and particularly by unfettered employee access to social networks -- are prompting more and more SMBs to block access to the services, according to findings in a new Webroot survey.
The company's survey of more than 1,000 U.S. and U.K. businesses with 500 or fewer employees found that more than half of the respondents (53%) tagged fear of malware as their top reason for blocking employee access to social nets such as Facebook and Twitter.
Nearly as many (47%) were concerned about company information leaking onto social networking sites. In fact, 12% of the respondents said they'd already had sensitive company information appear on a social network as a result of employee activity.
As a consequence, fully half of the respondents have blocked all employee access to any social networking site via company equipment.
The access blockage comes despite -- and, in some instances, because of -- widespread Internet and social network usage policies among small and midsized businesses.
While 81% of Webroot's respondents have an employee Internet usage policy in place, 42% put such a policy in place only after employees had used social networking inappropriately at work.
A third of respondents (34%) monitor Internet use as a means of enforcing policies.
The combination of policies, policy violations, usage monitoring and malware fears has led to increased prohibition of social network access:
- 39% prohibit employees from visiting Facebook
- 30% have banned employee access to Twitter
- 27% prohibit YouTube and video-sharing sites
- 21% restrict employee social network access to specific times of day (breaks, meals, after work hours)
While Webroot acknowledges that certain business departments and functions -- marketing, for instance -- are likelier to have legitimate business reasons for using social networks, the company's findings indicate that more and more employers are finding that the easiest, and safest, way to deal with social networks is to keep their employees from dealing with them at all.