FaceTime security program locks out MySpace applets

Free upgrade to security appliance lets IT administrators selectively filter out third-party applications built for the MySpace social networking site

FaceTime Communications has added a feature to its security appliance that lets IT administrators selectively filter out third-party applications built for MySpace.

The application control feature is a free upgrade for those already using the company's Unified Security Gateway (USG), an appliance for controlling instant messaging, VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and (P-to-P (peer-to-peer) applications, among other antispyware and antimalware functions.

While it's easy to simply ban access to social-networking Web sites, organizations are increasingly finding legitimate business uses for those sites, said Nick Sears, FaceTime's vice president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Sears said FaceTime has heard anecdotes of companies using Facebook to check backgrounds on potential employees, which could necessitate access to certain applications.

"This really isn't about whether MySpace or Facebook should be allowed anymore," Sears said. "It's a more granular issue."

Social-networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo are fostering development platforms so developers can build and sell applications and widgets that deliver some extra functionality to the sites.

Application development for networking sites has also been spurred by Google's OpenSocial project, which aims to create common APIs (application programming interfaces) so widgets will work on several sites.

MySpace has around 2,000 custom applications, while Facebook's pool has grown to more than 28,000, Sears said. Some of those applications may have features that could pose security risks, such as directing users to spyware.

Others may simply be time-wasters for employees, such as gaming and online dating applications. When the USG filter is used, employees who load up their MySpace profile can see a blank space and a warning that a particular application won't function from the workplace.

FaceTime's USG starts at $3,495 for 100 users for one year with maintenance. The appliance also supports certain controls for other social-networking sites such as Bebo, LinkedIn, and Facebook.