Like iPads and iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk are finding their way into the workplace whether IT officially endorses them or not. Organizations that aren't steering the social media bus are likely to end up with tire tracks on their backs -- and, worse, a real security nightmare on their hands.
"If you do not provide the means for business users to access social media, they will go around you," says Justin Kwong, senior director of IT operations and security at 24 Hour Fitness. "That's a worst-case scenario for a security professional, because instead of having some mitigated risk, you're fully exposed."
The project you want to own is bringing social media into the workplace in a way that benefits the enterprise without leaving it exposed to internal leaks, external threats, or embarrassment, says Meikle.
That means helping to create social media policies that define acceptable and unacceptable behavior on social networks, as well as the kinds of information that should never be shared. But even that won't work without first obtaining buy-in from top management.
"Effective policies for how to use social media must be governed and supported by senior management," says Meikle. "This will allow employees to engage customers at a far more personal level. And employees will understand the boundaries they are constrained by when these policies and tools are communicated and supported by senior management."
So, if this is such a great idea, why isn't everyone doing it? Corporations remain wary of social networks, says Meikle, in part because Web 2.0 security solutions are still relatively immature. Enterprises in heavily regulated industries like finance and health care face severe penalties for accidental data leaks, making them especially cautious.
"Social media has to be carefully monitored in these environments so sensitive information is not released," he says. "It also opens a door for malicious actors to gather data on key individuals in the corporation. That's why effective and well-communicated social media usage policies are critical."
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