Smartphone chatty apps

Enterprise security threat posed by unofficial Snapchat and Facebook use

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A ballooning number of employees would prefer to use consumer apps for communication in the workplace, bringing a new security headache to IT departments through their unsanctioned use.

According to research from Maintel, a managed communications provider, a substantial proportion of employees would like to use consumer-grade tools such as Snapchat or Facebook Messenger for work. 

With this trend only set to increase, businesses are faced with the security implications of their employees using unsanctioned tools, as well as the challenge of implementing and policing their use if sanctioned.  Maintel’s survey of 1,000 employed adults found that: 

  • 24 per cent of workers said they would like Snapchat to be approved by their employer, as well as 19 per cent for Twitter and 17 per cent for Facebook Messenger.

  • In an average working day, two or more hours are spent on Instagram (41 per cent), Facebook Messenger (32 per cent), and WhatsApp (29 per cent).

  • Instagram is not approved in 41 per cent of organisations, neither are Facebook Messenger (34 per cent) or Snapchat (38 per cent).

The report underscores a significant disconnect between the way that workers wish to communicate and the platforms that are sanctioned by the businesses that employ them. Maintel advises that the best way to avoid the security and compliance risks of this “communications chaos” is to concentrate their efforts into making mandated tools as easy and intuitive to use as possible by listening to employees’ needs and concerns. 

The appeal of consumer-oriented tools over what can often be cumbersome enterprise-grade platforms are the ease of use, speed of response and collaborative feature sets of apps such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger. The majority of respondents to the poll also confirmed that their unofficial use of these apps in the workplace has increased over the past three years. 

The security risks and the inability for any significant degree of corporate oversight means that many of these platforms are often blocked in the workplace: Instagram is not approved in 41 per cent of organisations, Facebook Messenger in 34 per cent and Snapchat in 38 per cent. 

Rufus Grig, CTO at Maintel, says: “Employers have a good reason for providing effective, safe and sanctioned communication tools at work. They want to maximise efficiency and productivity, reduce costs and travel, ensure compliance and optimise security. 

“When employees fail to use these tools, it’s usually because the experience - compared to consumer platforms - can be poor, hence why we see such significant use of the likes of WhatsApp and Facetime for business use. 

“Businesses should appreciate that blocking certain tools and mandating others is only part of the solution. Organisations should work closely with employees to understand what frustrations they experience with existing tools and select and develop solutions to make these platforms more compelling.” 

 

The Maintel study was conducted by 3Gem Research & Insights in April 2018 and polled 1,000 employed adults in the UK, aged 18 and over.

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