McAfee Report: Social Media Scares Businesses, Distracts Employees and Costs Millions

Web 2.0 applications such as social media sites and content sharing tools scare businesses, distract employees and cost them millions of dollars. That’s the topline of a new study from computer anti-virus giant McAfee that found 50 percent of businesses cite security as their primary concern for Web 2.0. The survey also found, however, that business executives see Web 2.0 as a way to boost productivity and create new revenue streams. And so, the debate continues, what is the role of social media and technology in the workplace?

The report, called “Web 2.0: A Complex Balancing Act – The First Global Study on Web 2.0 Usage, Risks and Best Practices, found the majority of businesses use social media sites for customer service and marketing instead of outsourcing projects and tasks.

Overall, McAfee’s survey of 1,000 business executives across 17 countries depicts a community wary of technology and the threats it may bring. Half of all businesses are concerned about the security of Web 2.0 applications including social media, micro blogging, collaborative platforms, web mail and content sharing tools, 60 percent are concerned about the loss of reputation as a result of misuse, and 70 percent had already suffered losses averaging $2 million due to security-related incidents.

The business community’s response to these losses? A dramatic locking of the gates to social media. Worldwide, 13 percent of organizations block all Web 2.0 activity for employees, while 81 percent restrict the use of at least one Web 2.0 tool during office hours because of security concerns. Nearly half the companies surveyed prohibit Facebook use during company hours, and the larger the corporation, the more likely the restrictions. Meanwhile, just one quarter of companies report monitoring how staff use social media.

Signaling what could become a competitive disadvantage, the United States has been slow to adapt Web 2.0 technology, lagging far behind leaders such as India, Brazil and Spain.

Analysts involved with the research agreed that, although a complex balancing act, businesses must embrace and become comfortable with social media, or risk missing out on a valuable tool.

Blocking social media access, “is the laziest way around the problem,” security consultant Shel Holtz concluded in the report.

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