Survey: Web 2.0 threats catch enterprises unprepared

Web-based attacks, bandwidth consumption harming enterprises

Enterprises are not prepared for the security threats posed by Web 2.0 technologies, because they use insufficient Web filtering and have failed to train users and make employees aware of potential risks, a vendor-sponsored survey claims.

Security vendor, Secure Computing,commissioned the Forrester study, which suggests also that bandwidth is being sucked up by employees using Web 2.0 staples such MySpace, YouTube, RSS feeds, Google Maps, blogs and wikis, often for nonbusiness purposes.

This unofficial use of Web 2.0 applications along with their inherent security threats complicates the decision-making processes for corporations that want to safeguard data while embracing collaborative technologies in ways that enhance productivity.

"Organisations are struggling to balance the need to regulate Internet usage and make effective use of what the Internet and Web 2.0 has to offer," Forrester claims in a new report commissioned by the vendor Secure Computing.

Forrester surveyed 153 IT and security professionals at enterprises with at least 1,000 employees about their concerns and approaches to dealing with Web 2.0 risks. One-third of the organisations reported data leaks that caused problems, while more than half are extremely concerned about viruses and Trojans.

Almost every respondent thought they were prepared for Web-borne threats, but a look at their actual practices suggested they were not, Forrester claimed.

Most enterprises primarily use gateway URL filtering and antivirus scanning for Web security, but zero-day attacks must be caught using behavioural and heuristics-based detection. Only 25 per cent of enterprises use behavioural analysis to detect zero-day malware, and 37 per cent use heuristics-based detection, Forrester's survey suggested.

"Despite the fear for malware and its disruptive consequences, organisations are not doing enough to protect themselves," the report said.

Most surveyed businesses have been hit by viruses and spyware in the past year, and 12 per cent have found zombie computers within their networks.

Forrester also examined bandwidth consumption related to Web 2.0. Half the organisations surveyed claim that at least 30 per cent of their bandwidth is consumed by nonbusiness use of rich media and social networking sites like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. One out of seven enterprise executives say they believe that sites like these consume more than half of their Web bandwidth.

Businesses claim they are also suffering decreases in employee productivity since employees log onto many of these sites for personal use.

Main challenges for businesses are personal use of social networking, user-contributed content, mobile content services, enterprise integration of Web 2.0 services via mashups and increased risk of data leaks, according to Forrester.

The research and consulting firm says enterprises should examine the adequacy of security policies and protection capabilities; improve user awareness training on Web 2.0 and other Web-borne threats; and use next-generation Web filtering technologies, like reputation services, content filtering, blended threat protection, heuristics and behavior-based detection.

"The proliferation of Web 2.0, which led to a prevalence of rich and interactive content on the Internet, has exacerbated the problem [of companies responding slowly to new threats]," Forrester writes. "Malware writers are now using the Web to propagate a plethora of new threats undeterred by traditional security means. The need for more effective Web protection has never been greater."

Secure Computing, is launching a new initiative called SWAT (Secure Web 2.0 Anti-Threat). The initiative aims to provide customers with research, tools, software and best practices for Web and messaging security, and is also driving ongoing development of the vendor's Webwasher Web.

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Jon Brodkin

Network World

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