Cloud, social media top Information Security Forum concern list

Balancing user needs with those of the business a challenge, says expert

An open approach to Cloud computing and social media may be preferred by users, but it is proving to be a nightmare for companies who take a locked down approach to security.

Local members of not-for-profit organisation, the Information Security Forum (ISF), raised these concerns with ISF's vice president of sales and marketing, Steve Durbin, during his visit to Australia.

The UK-based organisation, founded in 1989, provides security advice to its 300 global members, which includes the National Australia Bank (NAB) and ANZ.

Durbin said some members were "struggling" with social media, especially in light of recent reported attacks via Twitter and Facebook.

"There has been a debate going on within the membership as to whether or not organisations should allow access to Twitter and Facebook," he said.

"Some of our members in Brisbane, who had previously not gone down a social media path, opened up Facebook during the time of the floods this year so that staff could find out what was going on and use it as an effective communication tool."

However, once the flooding subsided, some companies closed off access again while others kept the site open to users because they discovered new benefits, such as promoting their company and providing a communication tool.

Durbin said that while social networking could never be 100 per cent secure, implementing policies and providing guidelines about usage, such as enabling Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) mode, would help reduce future problems.

Some forum members also noted that the push to social media was coming from business staff aged in their 20s, who were "digital natives" and grew up in an online world, Durbin said.

Hosting data in the Cloud was another concern for members, as while there was an opportunity to save money by outsourcing some services, the question of who had access to that data was critical.

The challenge, Durban said, was going in knowing the risks of Cloud computing.

"Some small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who don't have a security manager won't necessarily know how their data has been stored or what's happening to the information that is transmitting or receiving," he said.

"Those are the things the security professionals worry about.

"So how do we get the business needs and drivers that are moving at lightning speed where accessibility to service has become easier?

"We need to balance that up with the needs to protect and manage risk."

An important part of security was remembering that the network boundary within the organisation was gone, Durban said.

"Companies need to deal with that issue and make sure their systems are well-equipped to cater for an internal network which is connected to the Internet, Cloud service providers, smartphones and tablets."

He added that part of his visit to the country was to recruit SMEs into the mix.

"They have similar security issues to large organisations but without the benefits of security departments and the funding that the large organisations have."

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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