Explosive growth in social media at work

A new report from Palo Alto Networks indicates there has been “explosive growth” in global social networking and browser-based file sharing on corporate networks, with a 300% increase in active social networking (e.g. posting, applications) in 2011 compared with activity during the same period in the latter half of 2010.

The Palo Alto Networks Application Usage and Risk Report provides a global view into application usage based on assessments of the raw application traffic from more than 1,600 enterprises between April 2011 and November 2011.

"Whether or not employees are using social networks or sharing files at work is no longer a question; this data clearly demonstrates that users are embracing and actively using such applications," said René Bonvanie, chief marketing officer at Palo Alto Networks. "

Companies must determine how to safely enable these technologies on their networks so that users can maintain the levels of productivity that many of these applications can afford, while at the same time ensuring that their corporate networks and users are protected against all threats."

The report focuses on three primary findings:
•    Social media use is more active: Twitter has gained significant mainstream traction in the workplace: Since October 2010, social networking usage patterns have become more active with bandwidth consumption for Facebook Apps, Social Plugins, and posting increasing from 5% (October 2010) to 25% (December 2011) when measured as a percentage of total social networking bandwidth. Twitter browsing at work alone grew by more than 700% year-over-year.
•    Widespread file sharing use requires a balanced response: File sharing sites continue to be used on most networks, appearing on the networks of 92 percent of the participating organizations. In total, 65 different browser-based file-sharing variants were found with an average of 13 being used in each of the analyzed organizations. The report also explores a variety of risks associated with browser-based file-sharing applications, which varies by application and use case. However, the use of evasive techniques by these applications implies that they are often operating unchecked on corporate networks.
•    The types of traffic on enterprise networks is changing: Web applications that use TCP port 80, the standard port associated with HTTP web browsing traffic, actually represent a minority of the traffic on enterprise networks for the first time ever. The 297 applications that use only TCP port 80 and no other port by default represent a mere 25% of the applications and 32% of the bandwidth observed, meaning that a standard web browsing-focused security model actually protects a minority of an organization's traffic.

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