Survey: Employee Use of Social Media Heightens Security Concerns

According to findings from the eighth annual "What Keeps Network Administrators Up At Night" survey commissioned by VanDyke Software and executed by Amplitude Research, increased complexities such as the use of social media and smartphones by employees are keeping network and systems administrators at enterprises busy — although more than half feel sufficiently budgeted and/or staffed to support current information security needs.

The proportion of network administrators "sleeping like a baby" reached a new low in 2011. When network administrators were asked, "What keeps you up at night?" 41 percent selected a "security breach to your network." When the same question was asked in each of seven prior years, between 27 and 39 percent had indicated that worries about a security breach to their network was "keeping them up at night." Meanwhile, according to the 2011 survey findings, "users" were keeping 40 percent of network administrators awake at night. In seven prior years, between 28 and 38 percent had selected "your users" when asked "What keeps you up at night?"

Smartphones and Social Media are Added Complexities to Manage

Approximately four-in-ten (42 percent) network administrators considered managing the security of employee smartphones to be "very important" or "extremely important" as compared to other security threats facing their organization. Only about half (49 percent) of network administrators were satisfied with the security of handheld devices (e.g., Palm, BlackBerry) at their organization — down significantly from 57 percent in 2010.

Approximately four-in-ten (42 percent) were "moderately concerned" to "extremely concerned" about the security threat associated with employee use of social media. The proportion "moderately concerned" to "extremely concerned" was similar in 2010 (40 percent). When network administrators were asked to explain in their own words what concerns them most about employee use of social media at their organization, the most common themes were viruses (19 percent), data/information leaks (19 percent), intrusion risk (19 percent), users not being careful (9 percent), Trojan horses/other malware (9 percent) and concerns about risks to privacy/user information (6 percent). In addition to concerns related to security, 21 percent complained about employees wasting time on social media instead of being productive at work.

Cloud Computing Adoption on the Rise

The adoption of cloud computing rose significantly in 2011 — 22 percent compared to 15 percent in 2010. Among those who have not already adopted cloud computing, many are currently considering it. In fact, those who have not adopted and are not considering cloud computing are in the minority, with the proportion in this group declining significantly from 38 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2011. However, survey findings showed that less than half of those who have adopted cloud computing rated it "very secure." An even smaller proportion of those who have not yet adopted cloud computing consider it "very secure." The findings signaled there is room to increase the proportion willing to consider cloud computing very secure, even though network administrators often consider cloud computing to be "somewhat" secure.

IT Security Budgets and Staffing Often Viewed as Adequate to Meet Needs

The proportion seeing any decrease in their IT security budget went from 33 percent in 2009 to 20 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2011. In contrast, the proportion seeing any increase in their IT security budget went from 15 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2010 to 34 percent in 2011. Thus, as of 2011, 34 percent are seeing an increase vs. 15 percent who are seeing a decrease in their IT security budget.

The proportion feeling their organization has budgeted sufficiently to support current information security needs was 58 percent in the 2011 survey. At the same time, though, 63 percent felt their organization is sufficiently staffed to support current information security needs.

Moreover, the proportion seeing an increase in the size of their IT security staff for 2011 was similar to the proportion seeing a decrease in the size of their IT security staff (15 vs. 14 percent, respectively).

Possible Link Between Government Spending and Enterprise IT Security Budgets

Current spending patterns by state and local governments appear to have impacted some organizations, with those who noticed reduced spending more likely to report reductions in IT security staffing, overall IT budgets, and IT security budgets than those not reporting reduced spending by state and local governments.

Approximately 1/4 (26 percent) of the respondents indicated that they are seeing less spending by state and local governments in areas directly related to their company's business operations, while only 15 percent were seeing more spending. Twenty percent of those who noticed reduced spending by state/local governments were also seeing a decrease in the size of their IT security staff. This was significantly higher than the 11 percent of all other respondents who were seeing a decrease in IT security staff.

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