Four in five companies suffer "greynet" attack

Attacks via IM, webmail applications cost companies £180,000, report finds.

Instant messaging and other "greynet" networks and applications caused 81 per cent of IT managers to report a security incident this year, according to new research.

Findings by IM security company FaceTime estimated that a typical organization spent nearly 70,000 per year on average to repair damage from greynet-related attacks, while the largest companies were estimated to spend upwards of 180,000 per year repairing damage from greynet-related attacks due to higher incident rates.

The study of more than 1,100 IT managers and employees found that more users are installing greynet applications than last year but little has been done to combat greynet-related attacks.

Half of employees had downloaded some type of greynet application in the last six months. The top three greynet applications included streaming media, webmail and public instant messaging (IM). 40 per cent of employees admitted to downloading applications expressly forbidden by their IT departments. Three-quarters of IT managers reported productivity reductions from non-work related activities (73 per cent) including downloading of adult materials (50 per cent), copyright violations (39 per cent) and violations of corporate communications policies (33 per cent).

The level of greynet-related attacks reported within the last six months was about the same rate as one year ago, according to the research. The most common attacks were from spyware and adware (75 per cent), viruses and worms (57 per cent), other malware (22 per cent) and rootkits and keyloggers (22 per cent).

"End users continue to take business communications into their own hands, downloading and using real-time collaborative applications often without a complete understanding of the risks," said Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing for FaceTime Communications.

Cabri said the challenge for IT leaders was finding the right balance between enabling employee use of these applications while minimizing the risks to their organization.

"This challenge is compounded by the fact that much of the perimeter network security previously deployed was not designed to secure the greynet applications that employees find desirable," he said.

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