Personal storage sites are the latest ‘security risk’

Another thing you can't do at work

Internet filtering outfit Websense has set its sights at stamping out uncontrolled use of personal storage sites in the workplace, describing data backup sites as the latest security risk.

So if Websense has its way personal storage sites will join the list of prescribed workplace Internet activities alongside surfing for porn, swapping MP3 files and instant messaging as unacceptable security and liability risks. What is an employee supposed to do - work?

In fairness, Websense is a reputable firm whose technology helps firms enforce security policies on what employees are allowed to do at work, in particular restricting visits to questionable (software piracy, porn, racist etc.) Web sites. Providing these policies and clearly communicated to workers and sites properly categorised, then that's (in principle) fair enough.

But Websense wants to expand its role to tackle "emerging Internet threats" such as personal storage sites, spyware and Web-based email. Extending its filtering technology to block the operation of spyware is sensible.

We think Websense is over-egging the pudding in suggesting that uncontrolled use of personal storage Web sites poses an industrial espionage risk.

Following on from a recent survey from which Websense earlier warned of spyware risks, the company takes aim at personal storage sites.

The company this week warns "companies are exposing themselves to potentially devastating security and liability risks by not managing employee use of personal storage Web sites". Websense's survey of 400 companies across Europe revealed 71 per cent had no policies on the use of personal storage sites, such as briefcase.yahoo.com and Hotdrive.com (its examples).

"Within minutes and without trace, company confidential data - such as financial forecasts or customer databases - can be uploaded onto the web. However, most companies are still unaware of how employees access personal storage sites, which now number nearly 1,000 worldwide," the company warns.

Scary stuff.

But wait a minute: if someone is inclined towards a spot of industrial espionage, and if access to personal storage Web sites was blocked by Websense's filters, what's to stop him burning confidential data onto CDs? Or emailing confidential data to home (perhaps as an encrypted zip file)?

Geoff Haggart, vice president for EMEA, Websense, more or less conceded our point that preventing industrial espionage is a people management, rather than technology, issue.

"There might be lots of different mechanisms for industrial espionage," he says. But he maintains that Websense is correct in highlighting threats which firms may have overlooked when establishing their security policies.

Potential misuse of personal storage Web sites and Web email ranks "somewhere in middle of risks" which Websense customers face, Haggart told us. Websense's filtering technology is designed to help companies manage various personal productivity, bandwidth and security risks, to which we must now add personal storage.

Websense is not against storing or backing up data as such; it simply wants to limit use of the technology so that it is under tighter control. Companies may want to establish a preferred backup site and block access to the rest using Websense's technology, Haggart suggests. ®

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External Links

Web-Based Storage Sites Create Security Holes and Liability Risks For Businesses, Reports Websense
A list of more on-line storage providers

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