Finding the Right Balance: Web Security vs Web Access in the Workplace

Author: Surendra Singh
Regional Director - India & SAARC, Websense
More and more businesses are starting to use Web 2.0, i.e. those sites with dynamic or user generated content. In fact, a recent Websense survey found that 95 percent of businesses already allow access to some Web 2.0 sites and applications in the workplace. The same survey also revealed that 75 percent of IT managers felt pressured to allow more access to more types of Web 2.0 technology. So, it’s clear that simply blocking access is no longer an option.

It used to be commonplace for businesses to block sites or lock down access entirely, believing that the freedom to check personal email or visit a favorite site to catch up on news or gossip meant a less productive employee. It is this conservative mindset that has made the adoption rate of Web 2.0 in Europe significantly behind that of the United States. Not only is that attitude actually counterproductive, the idea of productivity slipping due to more open access to the Web is a red herring. 37 percent of IT managers admit that their users try to bypass their company's security policies anyway. So, a happy 10 minutes checking email is clearly better than spending hours working out how to bypass the system.

Encouraging Productivity, Helping the Business

The workplace today is significantly different to how it was 5-6, or even 2-3 years ago. The lines between work and play have blurred, and a happy employee is a productive one and is seen as a key to success. This is especially the case in the current economic climate as workers are being asked to contribute more towards productivity for less in return.

57 percent of IT managers believe that Web 2.0 is not just a 'nice to have' but 'must have' to their business. With Web 2.0, companies can interact with their customers in a better manner, employees are encouraged to exchange ideas with one another more cohesively, and telecommuting employees can also benefit from it.

Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and other Web 2.0 applications, previously thought to be used only for personal interaction, are now increasingly used for professional reasons. New research from Frost & Sullivan has revealed that Web 2.0 solutions are being used by companies more and more to cut costs and stay competitive in this recession-hit global economy.

Protection in a Communication-rich Society

Blended threats are on the increase and it’s often the most popular and trusted sites and search engines that are targeted by attackers. However, simply blocking access to certain sites won't help the company stay safe and it is counterproductive. Malware is a real issue today because most people don't know what they have to do to keep themselves or their business safe. Does the average employee know about drive-by Trojan horses? Do they know not to click on every link they see or receive in an email or to check they’re not being redirected to an undesired page? Do they know what phishing is? Don't they need to know?

Employees expect their company to keep them safe and have adequate protection in place. They expect to carry out day-to-day office life without thinking about malware or data leaks. The IT department plays a crucial role in protecting the enterprise and enabling a company to function to the best of its ability. These unsung techie heroes are appointed to remain vigilant at all times to keep the bad guys out, the let good stuff in, and to stay on top of an ever-changing threat landscape.

Companies don't need to limit the amount of access employees have to the Web - they need to deal with the threats more effectively. Legacy solutions fall short, but new powerful security solutions, like those offered by Websense are now available that categorize new sites and dynamic content in real-time and proactively discover security risks. These latest, integrated security solutions are designed to enable, rather than disable a company’s workforce. And that's got to be a good thing.

The author of the article is Surendra Singh, Regional Director - India & SAARC, Websense.
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