Social Networks Go to Work

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Use of social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube is widespread in business today, along with instant messaging, peer-to-peer file-sharing and media streaming, according to new research.

Market research firm NewDiligence surveyed 527 end users and IT managers and found about 60% of respondents use social-networking sites at work, while 85% use instant messaging and media, including streaming audio and video. (See a slideshow of 12 tips for safe social networking.)

In addition, more than half of respondents report using file-sharing for business purposes, and one-third acknowledge they use music and video sharing for personal reasons, too. Roughly 40% use personal Internet-based telephony, and 15% make use of online "anonymizer" systems at work to shield their identity.

In terms of frequency, half of respondents say they access social-networking sites once a day or more for business purposes, with LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Digg cited most often. Those same social-networking services are also the sites most visited for personal reasons.

The business reasons users gave for visiting the social-networking sites are "professional networking with colleagues," "learning about colleagues," "research," "setting up a meeting," and "sales prospecting."

Still, social-networking carries security risks. It's being exploited by attackers to spread malware or trick victims into visiting sites loaded with malware, points out Jose Nazario, network security researcher at security firm Arbor Networks.

Micro-blogging site Twitter, for example, has been a vehicle for distributing malware, including a recent bot that merged MSN Messenger link spam with Twitter to get users to download malware, he notes.

"Any social media where you do have a lot of eyeballs is a direct distribution channel for malware," Nazario said.

NewDiligence's research notes that most IT managers' companies have corporate policies for network monitoring. Smaller firms with fewer than 5,000 employees most often (20%) lacked such policies, the study said.

The survey also reports that about half of the IT managers have deployed a unified communications suite or plan to do so, with e-mail and IM the most widely adopted applications, and VoIP and file-sharing to follow.

NewDiligence's study, entitled "The Collaborative Internet: Usage Trends, End User Attitudes and IT Impact," was commissioned by FaceTime Communications, which provides enterprise tools for secure use of instant messaging, Skype, Web conferencing and P2P file sharing.

This story, "Social Networks Go to Work" was originally published by Network World.

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