Greynet, IM Use Doubling Security Incident Costs

Oct. 17, 2007
Unauthorized applications costing more time, resources

A September 2007 survey of more than 700 employees and IT managers to determine the impact greynet applications have on companies and organizations. Greynets -- real-time consumer applications (such as instant messaging, P2P, VoIP) often introduced by individual end users and use evasive techniques to traverse the network -- pose myriad network and information security risks because they provide vectors for malware, intellectual property loss, identity theft and compliance risks.

According to the study, an average of nine greynets are in use within the typical organization, and 99% of IT managers report at least one greynet in use at their locations. In spite of deploying security infrastructure such as firewalls and IPS products, nine in 10 IT managers have experienced a greynet-related security incident in the last six months.

While some greynets such as Skype, instant messaging (IM) and Web conferencing have legitimate business uses, IT requires visibility and control to ensure their safe and productive use. With other greynets, such as P2P file sharing, video streaming and anonymizers, the risks might outweigh the benefits and organizations need the ability to accurately detect and block them. Greynets can be evasive on the network, often circumventing the traditional security infrastructure that was designed for e-mail and standard Web traffic.

IT managers reported spending an average of nearly $289,000 annually to repair or re-image company PCs after malware attacks over greynets, double the cost reported in last year's study ($130,000 per year). On average, IT managers experience nearly 39 incidents per month that require some kind of repair or remediation to end-user PCs and each repair requires, on average, about nine hours of work.

Employees don't always see eye-to-eye with IT management regarding risky behavior on the network. For example, 80% of IT managers deem anonymizers -- applications that disguise network traffic to permit anonymous use of the Internet -- risky to corporate networks. In contrast, just more than half of users (57%) find them risky.

The bottom line is that greynet usage makes IT nervous: 40% of IT managers report that public IM use at work poses "serious risk," while another 46% indicate that IM poses "some risk," for a total of 86% of managers who are wary of the public IM networks and their impact on the work environment.

More Key Findings

40% of employees said that they need more applications than are typically installed on their work PCs.

85% of employees report that they use their work PCs for "personal, non-work purposes," and among these employees, 38% send personal IMs or engage in chat while at work.

The personal use of work computers is independent of company size. Across the board, approximately eight in 10 will surf, shop and chat over the company network, testimony to the continued blurring of personal and professional workspaces.

Fewer than half -- 45% -- of employees are at work locations where personal IM messaging is monitored by the organization.

The number of work locations with eight or more greynet applications in use has almost tripled in the last three years.

68% of IT managers are at work locations where there are specific guidelines and polices that govern the archiving and storage of IM, e-mail and chat communications.

53% of IT managers have received guidance from their corporate counsel concerning the archiving and storage of e-mails, IMs, chats and other employee communications.

45% of organizations would be unable to produce an archive or record of a specific employee's IM communications, if required to do so for legal purposes.

32% of the companies that have deployed enterprise IM also report they are incapable of producing logs of employee IM communications.

The full report, "Greynets in the Enterprise: 3rd Annual Survey of Trends, Attitudes and Impacts," is available from FaceTime at

Interested in information related to this topic? Subscribe to our Information Technology eNewsletter.
About the Author

Brad Kenney | Chief Marketing Officer

Brad Kenney is the former Technology Editor of IndustryWeek and now serves as director of the mobile/social platforms practice at R/GA, a global marketing/advertising firm in New York City.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!