More than half of Irish firms block employees from using social media

14 Dec 2011

Some 51pc of businesses in Ireland now restrict use of social media in the workplace, a new study reveals. Just less than half won’t let their workers conduct online shopping because they perceive it as a threat to their businesses.

A study by Integrity Solutions reveals that 51pc of Irish organisations now place restrictions on the use of social media websites in the workplace.

Almost one in four (24pc) block all social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, at work. Some 27pc allow access to social media sites with some restrictions, and 49pc allow access to all social media sites with no restrictions.

The survey was carried out with IT and security professionals at the recent IRISS (Irish Reporting and Information Security Service) annual conference, which took place in November.

The survey provided a number of interesting results, including 43pc who said online shopping by employees at work poses a threat to their organisation with Christmas approaching. These threats include identity theft, phishing, viruses and malware.

Around 12pc of respondents admitted their organisation’s IT security has been compromised by employees accessing external online sites.

Largest security concern is data loss

Looking ahead to 2012, the largest security concern is data loss and leakage, with 61pc of respondents highlighting this as a major issue. Almost half (48pc) are concerned by the security implications caused by the proliferation of personal mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, being used in the workplace.

Other key security concerns are cloud security (38pc), inappropriate use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube (25pc), and compliance and regulatory commitments (25pc).

Just 46pc of respondents were aware of all the personal devices being used by their organisation for work-related activities. In addition, more than a quarter (26pc) said they don’t have policies and tools in place to govern accessing or storing of sensitive data on mobile devices in their workplace.

Despite the ongoing recession, IT security budgets in Ireland will primarily either remain the same or increase in 2012.

Of those respondents that know what their IT security budget will be next year, 40pc said it will increase, 49pc said it will remain the same, and just 11pc said it will decrease.

Why Irish businesses are restricting social media

“In recent years, we have seen a huge increase in the use of social media and personal mobile devices in the Irish workplace,” Integrity’s Eoin Goulding explained.

“While it’s understandable that employees want to keep up with news by logging onto Facebook in the office or using their personal smartphones for work-related activities, we still have to ensure that their employer’s business is fully protected from the many online and mobile security threats that exist.

“While many Irish businesses are now choosing to restrict access to social media websites, this often isn’t ideal because communications via social media are becoming increasingly necessary in the modern business world.

“With Christmas fast approaching, it also appears that many Irish businesses are worried about the security implications of employees shopping for gifts online at work. There are still many e-commerce and online retail sites that aren’t completely secure and this could lead to a host of security issues being transferred back to the employee’s desktop. This needs to be managed effectively.

“Looking at the major security headaches for 2012, it’s no surprise to see data loss and leakage leading the way. With a number of high-profile data loss incidents for public and private sector organisations in Ireland in recent times, Irish businesses are acutely aware of the damage they can cause their business.

“Despite the myriad of security threats that exist for Irish businesses at present, it’s important that organisations are not paralysed by fear. By putting the right security policies and tools in place, then the dangers created by cyber criminals can be minimised or avoided completely.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years