The new Facebook threat to business

Unable to keep users' personal info private, Facebook unveils messaging system that will swamp IT with hard-to-defend traffic

The Boy Billionaire, aka Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has done it again. His proposal to turn Facebook messaging into a sort of universal communications platform is probably the worst idea of the year. It's bad for the privacy of users and for corporate IT, which will have to deal with a huge spike in hard-to-defend Webmail. Ultimately, it may well be bad for Facebook, which will likely see its fairly pristine messaging service overrun by spammers and hackers.

(In case you missed it, Facebook this week unveiled a new messaging system that will envelop email, instant messages, Facebook messages, and SMS.)

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A company that can't or won't take steps to protect the personal information entrusted to it by millions of users is about to vastly increase the volume of communication flowing through its infrastructure. Even worse, it will archive that information for years, providing infinitely more opportunities for that data to leak into the wrong hands.

The Boy Billionaire is waging war on Google, striving to become proprietor of the stickiest site in the known universe. Normally, I'd say fine, give it your best shot. But Project Titan, as it's called, should be dubbed Project Titanic, a hugely flawed contraption that puts users and IT at severe risk.

Uncontrolled Webmail threatens IT
Whether corporate IT likes it or not, users are going to use Webmail and social networking tools at work. It's not clear how widely tools like Twitter and Facebook are used in business, but there is a measure of how much traffic on corporate networks is generated by Webmail -- and it's more than you think.

Palo Alto Networks, a network security firm and firewall provider, monitors traffic on the networks of more than 700 corporate customers, with an aggregate user base of 1 or 2 million.

In the first six months of this year, Hotmail was used by employees at 90 percent of the security firm's customers; Yahoo Mail by 88 percent; and Facebook mail (messaging, actually) by 79 percent. The number is a bit misleading. Although Facebook is used at 79 percent of the companies, it's used much less than its three rivals. However, Facebook usage as measured by bandwidth consumption has increased by roughly 15 times since the spring of 2009, according to the survey.

Why is that a problem? "Organizations have built a Maginot Line on port 25 with defenses against malware, spam, and phishing, but none of that affects Webmail," says Chris King of Palo Alto Networks. "Webmail has all of the risks of corporate mail, but none of the protection."

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