10 Ways to Protect Your Company from Social Media Hacker Attacks

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-24 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Social networks can be scary places that cause many companies to debate whether to continue supporting social network access for employees at the office. But keeping a company safe from potential security issues isn't as hard as it might appear. Here are 10 ways to make social network access safer.

A new phishing attack has hit Twitter, causing some users to unwittingly expose sensitive data to malicious hackers. It's causing some people to question how they use social networks. And it might be forcing many companies to second guess their support for such services.

The threat of outbreaks coming from social networks is real. Without some sort of corporate policy and safeguards in place, sensitive data can leak out through social networks. For that reason, the enterprise needs to ensure that it's taking the proper steps to maintain security while still giving employees the opportunity to access social networks.

Here's how:

1. Establish a corporate social-media policy

Step one of any initiative on social networking should start with a social-media policy. How will employees be allowed to access their social networks? What can they say to followers while they're working? Is there a limit to what they can access? All these questions need to be answered by the company. Stated policies keep employees on track and, if necessary, provide a resource when rules are broken.

2. Encourage social-networking use

Although there are rules that need to be set in place, one of the most important considerations when trying to ensure social-media security is to encourage its use. Yes, eliminating access to such sites would, at first glance, seem to limit security outbreaks, but the opposite is quite true. Employees would try to find ways to circumvent a company's blocking measures, access social networks anyway, and do so without the proper guidance they need. Encouraging the use of social networks keeps everything above board. And it gives companies the opportunity to guide that use.

3. Training is key

After encouraging the use of social networks, companies must train employees. IT managers can examine best practices and guide employees on what they should and should not do. A first step is to inform employees that they shouldn't be clicking on links that they don't know. It's also a good time to give them a refresher on not clicking on links in phishing e-mails claiming to come from a social network. It seems rather simplistic, but with those simple lessons, the vast majority of security issues impacting companies through social networks will be eliminated.

4. Break out the tools

If a company is going to allow the use of social networks, one of the most important tools it should be using is TinyURL Preview. The simple tool allows employees to view the real destination of a disguised TinyURL link before they get to the site. 

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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