Is Facebook an enterprise friend or foe?

If you work in a corporate IT department, it is a hard call to say whether you want to, in its own argot, de-friend Facebook.

With seemingly everyone you know getting onboard the popular social networking site, IT managers are finding out that Facebook makes sharing information easier, information that ideally should remain within a corporate network.

Probably the most extreme example was a story I heard earlier this year. An Army grunt posted the location of his next mission in Afghanistan as his status update on his Facebook page. Within moments, the mission was scrubbed and the soldier was being sent back home.

How about the Michigan juror who posted her verdict on her Facebook page, prior to ever getting into the jury room to deliberate? Needless to say, she was removed forthwith by the judge. Now it isn’t unusual to hear about someone losing their job because of a Facebook indiscretion.

And the opportunity to track intra-office romances via the participants’ status messages is mind-boggling. Back in the olden times, we just had to rely on misdirected romantic email messages to amuse us. Now we have access to full-color photos and video documentation.

Speaking of entertainment, I am sure you have also noticed the collection of movies and TV shows that feature Facebook elements. And some of them even have accurate story lines, too. It is hard to think about anything else these days.

So what can an IT manager do to protect his or her enterprise? There are a bunch of strategies and products, as security vendors have become more Facebook-aware themselves. You can set up firewall policies, turn on bandwidth controls, or use a variety of data loss prevention and network monitoring products to track what is being sent out to the world.

Certainly, just about any firewall worth its packets can block Facebook access totally, but you might not want to do that. Let’s say you don’t mind if people message each other within Facebook, but playing Farmwille or other games during 9 to 5 is verboten. Several firewalls can make this distinction, such as McAfee’s Firewall Enterprise. Some firewalls, such as Sonicwall’s, have all sorts of granular policies to fine-tune what behavior is and isn’t allowed.

Or let’s say you run IT for a college campus. You can’t block your students’ use of Facebook (you might start a revolt), but during the daytime when faculty wants to get their work done, you might want to reclaim some of this bandwidth and at least slow access down. A number of products such as Blue Coat’s PacketShaper can do this. You can simulate the rate of say, a dial-up line for Facebook from 9 to 5, and turn it back to the full OC-3 pipe afterhours.

And in the world of data loss prevention (which is where the extreme examples cited above can make anyone a bit nervous), you can make sure that customer data or other sensitive information is properly monitored. You can also track who spends the most time on the site too.

To learn more about these and other products, you can read an article that I wrote for Techtarget last month, as well as go to my screencast review site Webinformant.tv where you can see my short videos that demonstrate some of the products that I mention above.

2 thoughts on “Is Facebook an enterprise friend or foe?

  1. This is a great article. I agree that products like Sonicwall and Symatec can help with the granularity control and what a great suggestion regarding Packeteer/Bluecoat. These are great ways to recover bandwidth as well. – All the best, Bill

  2. Pingback: Is Facebook an Enteprise friend or Foe? Controlling Facebook Use in the Enterprise! « CIO Executive Series

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