According to a recent study, social networking growth is about to peak. But even if true, the number of people currently using it in its various forms — 600 million on Facebook, 190 million on Twitter, and 100 million on LinkedIn — is astonishing.
The popularity has created a business problem that anyone with an information systems degree would expect: security. Not only are people using social networks at home, but at work. That creates large vulnerabilities. In fact, a recent survey showed that 42 percent of network administrators are moderately to extremely concerned about employees using social networks in the office because of the accompanying security threats.
The good news? Someone just dropped a big career present on the doorsteps of those with information technology degrees. As it is, cybersecurity is one of the hot IT jobs of the future. However, cybersecurity is a broad field, and some of the specialties — mobile device and software security, for example — are growing needs that are often out of the experience of existing experts. Social network security will be another important area.
The big concerns about social network security including virus downloads, information leaks, and possible intrusion. Unfortunately, people are often careless when using such systems. According to the study, only 16 percent said that employees had no access. That spells a lot of companies with potential risk.
Some of the most important forms of security for social media are actually social in nature:
- Policies and Procedures — The company has to carefully think through what social network access to give employees. An all or nothing approach may not make sense, especially as a growing number of social networks offer important business opportunities and a chance to develop contacts. But tie social network-specific policies to all relevant IT policies.
- Training — The biggest danger in social networks is how people use them. Not only do they need to know the company’s policies, but you’ll have to show them how those policies translate into actually using a given social network.
- Monitoring — As President Ronald Reagan famously said, trust but verify. The company should intelligently track what employees do on social networks. That doesn’t mean recording every detail, which would create a mountain of unexamined data. But see if people use social networks at times they’re not supposed to. Also, regularly scan public interactions, like on Twitter, to be sure that employees who officially represent the company do so properly.
Social networks are not about to disappear, and trying to eliminate them would be like waging a battle against phones during the early days of telecommunications. Instead, learn how to help companies safely embrace it — and help your career at the same time.