Security Experts:

Translating Facebook, Twitter Privacy Controls into Social Media Policy

Managing Risks of Social Media in the Enterprise

Between the launch of Google + and recent announcements from Twitter and Facebook, social network security has been front and center in the press during the past several days. While the changes are unlikely to diminish attackers’ interest in social networks, the talk about privacy once again underscores the importance of developing sound acceptable use policies for your organization.

Social Networking Security TipsFrom a user standpoint, the changes – which include an “Always use HTTPS” feature for Twitter users and new dropdown privacy menus for Facebook – are meant to provide simple, effective mechanisms for offering security. From a business perspective however, controls do not lessen the need for enforceable policies, meaning they still face the task of crafting rules that balance privacy, security and productivity.

“The first thing to do is to define what social media is and how it relates to your organization,” explained Beth Jones, senior threat researcher at Sophos. “Different organizations will have different needs. Are you a school or a business? What do you consider to be social media? Just Facebook and Twitter? What about FourSquare, or Flickr or YouTube? How do employee personal blogs (or student blogs) factor in?”

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Next, there is the issue of content. In a template for corporate policies, Websense suggested a number of guidelines, ranging from the obvious – such as not disclosing confidential information – to rules such as not referencing partners or customers without approval and including links back to their Websites when they are mentioned. It also includes recommendations such as identifying oneself instead of using pseudonyms and having users speak in the first person during personal communications so it is clear they are not speaking on behalf of the company.

Key to all this of course is education. Tom Clare, senior director of product marketing for Websense, cited three main tips companies need to communicate to their employees about social media. Tip #1: “if you don’t want it on CNN, don’t post it.”

“Every employee is a brand ambassador when they use social media channels,” he said. “So my recommendation is to use common sense. Would you want your boss to read what you are posting? Is that information confidential? Do I want my competitors or customers to read this? When in doubt, use common sense.”

His second tip: understand social media use is monitored.

“Excessive use of entertainment, unproductive, inappropriate content or time-consuming habits will be monitored and if necessary, policies will be enforced to ensure employee productivity and the proper use of the social web,” he added.

Finally, employees need to understand they are the solution, not the problem, and should look for ways to use social media to increase productivity and improve customer relationships.

From a security standpoint, organizations should also monitor their employees and seek out technology to prevent data leaks and other threats, he said.

“Use your resources wisely,” Clare told SecurityWeek. “For example, you can allow folks to watch video surveillance of their kids at home, but on quota time. This will reduce bandwidth strain and corresponding costs while keeping your employees happy.

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