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Trends Impacting Data Security: Social Networking

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This is part 2 of a series on security trends in recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October. Each week this month, we’ll be looking at major trends affecting cybersecurity.

Some new trends in the way we conduct business and interact with others are facilitating data leakage as well as cyber attacks. One such trend is the adoption of social networking as a business tool. Today, the use of social networks in the workplace is common, and the adoption of Web 2.0 enables this new highly collaborative business environment. But Web 2.0 brings with it diverse security risks that are being exploited by cyber criminals to gain access to valuable private personal and business data. For example, if the server-browser trust relationship is not configured properly in the new Web 2.0 environment, it becomes a prime target for cross-site scripting and code injection, both of which facilitate the rapid delivery of malware via drive-by-downloads to unsuspecting users. In 2007, one social networking site was infected by a JavaScript worm that subsequently infected more than 670,000 users.

Untitled Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology is being adopted by numerous Web 2.0 application providers. While this attempts to provide a secure communications link to banks and other financial institutions, for example, cybercriminals have found that they, too, can leverage the “secure communications link” to transport their malware and steal information and sometimes money without ever being detected. This is possible since SSL traffic flows freely through most firewalls without ever being inspected by end-point security tools such as intrusion detection systems and data-loss prevention technologies.

With the wide-spread adoption of SSL, how can companies ensure that they are being compliant, or that they are not spreading malware and botnets? SSL inspection is becoming an increasingly necessary security measure. In order to ensure the integrity of the data being passed through the corporate firewall, leading financial institutions, for example, are employing hardware appliances that operate as a “bump in the wire” to quickly inspect and forward or block network traffic.


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