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Social Media Privacy: What is the Role of IT in Security of Social Networks?

December 21, 2013 IADT General, Information Technology 0 Comments

Social Media Privacy: What is the Role of IT in Security of Social Networks?Most social media apps require the user to grant access to their personal information and images that can then be shared publicly. This provides an engaging user experience, but it also gives companies a helping hand with their marketing incentives by learning very specific information about their customers.

With so much information around, the onus is generally on the user to protect their own privacy by changing settings if they aren't happy with the amount of information being shared. Of course, a social media site or app must do everything in its power to protect its gathered user data from inappropriate and illegal access.

Social media privacy presents new and evolving challenges for the IT industry. For students pursuing information technology studies, it presents an opportunity to explore current issues in the design of social network apps from an ethical and practical standpoint, as well as provide the privacy protection necessary in the future. 

The Role of IT in Security of Social Media

Social media allows you to share information with an audience of millions, yet it gives the same power to third parties that can either use it for commercial purposes or to spread false information about you. As documented in the Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report, mass audience sites such as social media present the highest concentration of online security threats. One reason for this is that they incorporate online advertisements that can deliver malicious content as they harvest personal data for marketing purposes.

The advent of cloud computing that enhances social media operations presents a serious gap between technology implementation and personnel with the requisite skill set to provide security. The IT industry needs to proactively address unique security concerns for users of social media. Several steps can be taken in this regard.

  • Software solutions to anticipate risks. Fortunately, it is much easier to manage technology than human behavior. IT can make use of existing network security technologies to ensure a secure line of defense for companies against ill-intentioned intruders. Hackers evolve with technology, designing viruses and malware that find their way to enterprises via social media. IT departments should be anticipating these risks and devising threat-detection tools to block or filter social sites.
  • Develop a BYOD Policy. As more organizations encourage their employees to "Bring Your Own Device" to the workplace to encourage efficiency and productivity, there has to be a strict policy regarding the use of corporate data on personal machines. Combined IT and human resource teams should determine and develop a policy that catalogs all employee BYODs and defines exactly what sensitive company information should be protected and who should have access to this information. A comprehensive policy, backed by continual employee training, will empower staff to undertake social media activities on behalf of the organization successfully.
  • A Layered Solution. When you consider the technology in use, the operations of the organization, and the personnel involved in social networking, security needs a solution with a social component as well. Marrying technical solutions such as encryption, strong passwords and firewalls with behavioral change at every level of the organization is a strategy that creates multiple layers of defense when various functions interact with social media. Investing in personnel competency by offering programs of continuing awareness on social media vulnerabilities and best practices rather than in another technical defense mechanism hardens the weakest link in the company's information security.

Users value their social media privacy. IT can only augment protection efforts from a technical standpoint. A little education on social media etiquette goes a long way in security.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

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