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WatchGuard Details High Risk Social Media Applications

WatchGuard Technologies : 29 January, 2011  (Technical Article)
Business are under threat from the use of social media according to WatchGuard who goes through the most risky applications and how they can affect businesses through data loss and reduced productivity
According to WatchGuard security researchers, the fastest growing threat to corporate networks is web-based social media applications that can seriously compromise network security, expose sensitive data and create productivity drains on employees.


WatchGuard’s most risky web apps are:


1 Facebook:  Arguably today’s most dangerous social media site, largely based upon its popularity. With a 500+ million user following, Facebook offers fertile ground for hackers. Add in technical concerns such as a questionable open App API and you have a potential recipe for disaster.


2 Twitter: A lot of damage can be done in just 140 characters. In some cases, Twitter’s short form posts can lead to new vulnerabilities such as URL shorteners that may save space in Twitter posts, but also help hackers hide malicious links. Twitter also suffers from Web 2.0 and API related vulnerabilities that allow various attacks and even Twitter worms to propagate among its users.


3 YouTube:  Being one the most popular online video sites is bound to attract unwanted attention. Hackers can create malicious web pages that masquerade as YouTube video pages and attackers like to spam the comment section of YouTube videos with malicious links.


4 LinkedIn: Being a trusted, business-oriented site makesLinkedIn an attractive target for attackers. Because most users leverage LinkedIn to form business relationships or find jobs, they tend to post more valuable and potentially sensitive information.


5 4chan: A popular image board  site where users post images and comments, 4chan has been involved in many Internet attacks attributed to ‘anonymous’, the only username that all 4chan users can obtain. Some of 4chan’s image boards contain the worst type of depravities found on the Internet and many hackers spam their malware to 4chan forums.


6 Chatroulette:  An up-and-coming site, Chatroulette allows webcam owners to connect and chat with random people. The nature of this anonymous webcam system makes it a likely target for Internet predators.



These social media applications pose risks to any size business. Here are a few:


* Productivity Loss: Businesses lose billions of pounds a year from lowered productivity, as a result of social media sites. Although these sites can be used for collaboration and rich communications, IT administrators often lack the ability to manage and control business productivity web applications in relation to gaming sites, for example.


* Data loss: Businesses are increasingly concerned about data leakage. The fact that social media sites are a fantastic communications medium, also makes them a potential risk for information and privacy leakage. By having application control capabilities, administrators can reduce risks associated with accidental or malicious data loss.


* Malware and Attack vector: WatchGuard predicts that social networks will become the leading malware vector over the next few years for three reasons:


A culture of trust. The whole point of social media is to interact, typically with people considered to be trusted friends. But social media sites do not have any technical means to validate that people are really who they say they are, creating an environment ideal for social engineers to exploit.


Technical vulnerabilities. While Web 2.0 technologies provide many benefits, they also harbour security vulnerabilities. The complexity of Web 2.0 applications can lead to imperfect code, which introduces some social network sites to Web application vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. Furthermore, the concept of allowing untrusted users to push content to social media sites conflicts with traditional security practices.  Simply put, this means social media sites are more likely to suffer from web vulnerabilities than less complex and less interactive web sites.


Hugely Popular. According to online analytics firm, Compete, Facebook is now the 2nd most popular web destination after Google. Many other social networks, such as Twitter and YouTube follow close behind. Attackers are attracted to this popularity because they know it means that they can get ‘return on investment’.


“Now more than ever, businesses need security tools to manage the myriad of web applications that flow in and out of corporate networks,” said Eric Aarrestad, Vice President of Marketing at WatchGuard. “With WatchGuard Application Control, administrators can selectively allow, block, or restrict access to applications based on a user’s department, job function, and time of day, and generate reports on usage. This keeps unproductive, inappropriate, and risky applications off-limits.”
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