Social networking creates big vulnerabilities

After an eight-month study, Palo Alto Networks (an enterprise security and firewall company) released a report that provides a global view into application usage by assessing 28 exabytes of application traffic from 1,253 enterprises between October 2010 and April 2011.

More than 40% of the 1,042 applications that Palo Alto Networks identified on enterprise networks can now use SSL or hop ports to increase their availability within corporate networks. This segment of applications will continue to grow as more applications follow Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail, who all have enabled SSL either as a standard setting or as a user-selectable option in an effort to create the perception of improved security for its end-users.

Contrary to popular opinion, social networking has not meant the death knell of webmail and instant messenger (IM). Compared with 12 months ago, IM traffic, as a percentage of overall traffic has more than doubled, while webmail and social networking increased nearly five times.

As browser-based file sharing applications now use peer-based technology and add clients as a “premium”, the question arises: will the business and security risks introduced by browser-based file sharing follow the same path as those that were introduced by P2P? The frequency of file transfer applications – 92% of FTP, 82% of P2P, and 91% browser-based file sharing—each provide business value, but represent security and business risks that may include exploits, malware vectors, and data loss.

Rene Bonvanie, vice-president of marketing at Palo Alto Networks declared:

“This data should be a wake-up call for IT teams who assume encrypted traffic is mainly HTTPS or for those who still believe that social networking usage is not taking place on their corporate networks.”

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