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Execs see value in Web 2.0 but worry about security

Business leaders surveyed for a study by security software maker McAfee see financial value in social media and other Web 2.0 technologies but are concerned about the security threats they pose.

A McAfee survey of more than 1,000 business executives across 17 countries has found that Web 2.0 technologies can increase employee productivity and generate revenue. But half of the business executives expressed fears over the security risks that come from social media, blogging, Web mail, and content-sharing tools.

Released Monday, the "Web 2.0: A Complex Balancing Act" (PDF) report was commissioned by security software maker McAfee and authored by faculty at Purdue University to study the benefits and risks of Web 2.0 technologies in the business world.

The study showed that three out of four companies surveyed use Web 2.0 for different business reasons, including IT, sales and marketing, customer relations, advertising, and human resources. Most companies see the potential to drive new sales as the key motivator, while others say that Web 2.0 tools have boosted productivity and created more effective marketing strategies.


But companies are worried about specific threats from the use of Web 2.0 tools, including malicious software, viruses, overexposure of information, and spyware. And some of those fears have already been borne out.

More than six out of ten companies reported being hit by financial losses due to malware from Web 2.0 applications, with each loss averaging around $2 million, adding up to more than $1.1 billion. Another 60 percent of the businesses surveyed said they were concerned about damage to their reputations as a result of employee misuse of social networks and other Web 2.0 technologies.

In fact, employee misuse is the key worry. As a result, 33 percent of the execs surveyed said they restrict access to social media, 25 percent monitor its use, and 13 percent block it altogether. As just one example, almost half of the companies block access to Facebook. Two-thirds of the companies surveyed said they have policies in place to educate employees on the proper use of social media, and 71 percent of those use technology to enforce those policies.

Overall, the survey found that Web 2.0 solutions are not seen as crucial to most businesses. But that sentiment is to be expected, according to McAfee, given that these technologies are still growing and being explored. Business leaders did express great potential for Web 2.0 in the future as more companies adopt them.

The online survey was conducted from June 14 to July 22 by research firm Vanson Bourne. Executives in the public and private sectors took part.