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Social networking drives web filtering uptake.

E-Mail Systems : 02 August, 2007  (Technical Article)
E-mail systems reports and increase in the use of web filtering technology in line with increasing use of social networking sites.
Adoption of web filtering technology is currently being largely driven by the phenomenal take up of social networking sites such as Facebook, the online craze which is currently sweeping across the UK, according to email and web security specialist Email Systems.

Indeed CTOs and IT administrators are increasingly choosing to specifically block access to Facebook, alongside the other chief time-sapping websites - hotmail and gmail. 47% of Email Systems' web filtering customers have already blocked Facebook as an implicitly selected site and 83% have blocked it by category (social networking). Additionally, Email Systems has identified a trend for blocking viral video sites, such as YouTube, with over 53% of its customers choosing to block this site during work hours and 64% of customers blocking streaming and download video content from its users.

According to a recent survey (*), nearly one in five companies has disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies in the past year, while 7.1% of companies fired an employee for such infractions and 10% investigated the exposure of financial information via a blog or message board posting in the past year.

According to the DTI: "Inappropriate web and e-mail usage is the second largest cause of reported security incidents" (*2). The same report indicated that 52% of organisations have reported misuse of internet resources with the two most common being access to inappropriate websites (41%) and excessive web surfing (36%).

With several city firms - including Credit Suisse and Dresdner Kleinwort - having announced a ban on the site earlier this week and many of Email Systems new web filtering customers citing Facebook explicitly as one of the key catalysts for adopting web filtering, the issue is fast becoming a top concern.

It is estimated that over 60% of UK companies have no web filtering in place today. These social sites pose a real threat to business productivity, confidentiality and possibly reputation with many staff often discussing company issues and opinions in public.

The latest internet phenomenon, social networking websites offer an interactive network of photos, user profiles, email and chatrooms. Unlike MySpace, Bebo, Faceparty, YouTube and most other mainstream social networking websites, Facebook is currently favoured amongst young professionals and consequently take-up of the service within the corporate environment has been extremely swift, with many companies creating their own groups on the site.

However, although there are undoubtedly some commercial benefits for using the service, particularly for smaller businesses, Facebook in particular relies heavily on email to inform users of new messages received and other activities taking place on site, thereby incentivising users to return to the site again and again for activity updates. With 40%+ of emails at work being non-business related already (IDC research) this adds significantly to un-required traffic.

The sites represents a number of other risks to business, with many staff choosing to use their time online to discuss their employer and air grievances in the public domain. Moreover, with users of social networking sites freely offering personal details to many, there is also an increased risk of identity theft.

With child violence sites currently in the headlines as another example of undesirable web-content, Email Systems web filtering service allows customers to block internet access for specific sites, types of sites or users, whilst providing detailed real-time reporting.

Neil Hammerton, CEO of Email Systems commented:
"Facebook is a growing concern for many of our customers, mainly because the site is so addictive and encourages constant, repeat usage throughout the day. Clearly many businesses have long considered webmail services to be a significant risk in terms of time, productivity and security - but Facebook is the latest incarnation to really get the industry stirred up."

Recently awarded the highest possible grading - Check Mark Premium - in an independent evaluation by West Coast Labs, Email Systems manages and monitors the flow of spam and virus infected email messages on behalf of millions of corporate and public sector users across the UK.
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