FaceTime Looks to Deepen Control of Web 2.0 Applications

For IT managers, the task of controlling access to social-networking sites is enormous.

FaceTime Communications plans to expand its war on greynets in the enterprise with the addition of new capabilities meant to provide IT managers with control over 140 social networking sites, 20,000 individual Facebook widgets and more than 400 Web and real-time applications.

The company announced the enhancements, which are slated to be available in its Unified Security Gateway product in 30 days, April 7 at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. The new capabilities are intended to complement the existing product's URL filtering, anti-malware and IM and P2P management technology.

"FaceTime has researched all the unique applications on Facebook and categorized them in the USG [Unified Security Gateway], allowing an IT manager to allow some applications for specific groups or users, but restrict or block the behavior for others," said Frank Cabri, FaceTime's vice president of product management and marketing. "Some organizations may choose to block the 1,000-plus messaging widgets (and) applications, in Facebook as they may introduce information leakage risk, or another organization may want to allow only the HR team to research new potential candidates but restrict access for others while in the office."

To read more about FaceTime Communications' research on greynets in the enterprise, click here.

In addition, the USG can run standard URL filtering lists from leading providers such as Secure Computing, so organizations can be sure they are managing access to inappropriate Web sites in addition to managing Web 2.0 capabilities, Cabri said.

Controlling the Greynet

FaceTime has long focused on greynets, programs that network users install on their computers, usually without permission of IT. In a report last fall, FaceTime researchers found that 8 out of 10 IT managers surveyed had experienced a security incident due to a greynet. With this announcement, the company is taking aim at Web 2.0 applications in particular, which officials at the vendor contend are becoming an important security concern for IT managers.

Still, enabling the social networking applications associated with Web 2.0 can have important business uses.

In a report entitled "Social-Networking Sites Present Real Business Risks and Benefits," Gartner analyst Peter Firstbrook wrote that providing a progressive work environment is a compelling reason to allow social-networking sites in the enterprise, and recommended that organizations only block social-networking sites after conducting a careful analysis of the risks and benefits.

"Every company should find the policy that fits with their unique business needs and regulatory restrictions," FaceTime's Cabri said. "Once an IT manager has a complete understanding of the network traffic, they can create policy with business units on what should and should not be allowed. Then they can "enable" those applications that are allowed, with logging for compliance, malware prevention [and] keyword filtering."