Consumer apps in the workplace: much worse than expected

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Are more employees using consumer apps at work than we first thought? Recent research concludes that almost half of all bandwidth within corporate environments is being used by personal applications such as YouTube and peer-to-peer file sharing. In fact, security start-up Palo Alto Networks reports that an average of six peer-to-peer applications were found in 92% of organizations it polled in a recent survey.It warns that enterprises are losing their grip and, aside from the bandwidth costs involved, far greater damage may be done to the security of organizations.

Only last month, the rabidly popular Facebook, fell victim to a phishing attack that lured users to a fake site. Unsuspecting Facebook users were encouraged to follow a link to a web page that appears to be a Facebook log-in page that stole their information when they typed in their username and password. The worm also sends a copy of the message to the infected Facebook member's contacts. Such attacks have knock-on effects to enterprises as their employees' personal activity becomes intermingled with their professional activity.

To maintain a grip on application and device security, enterprises will clearly have to work harder. Gartner, for example, predicts that by 2011, 10% of all information technology spending will reside with employees. Employees will acquire their own technology and use it for work purposes - especially in situations where no clear policy is set. Employees are also set to customize 90% of the technology they use at work by 2015.

However, it's not just consumer apps that are leaving enterprises open to security threats. A survey conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Veracode has found that 62% of companies have experienced security breaches in critical applications in the last year. The survey goes on to warn that spending on application security is coming under increasing pressure and 64% of respondents are struggling to meet the challenge on existing budgets.

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.