Employers prefer limited social access

With the right technology, companies today have the ability to limit employee access in social media, effectively block threats and enhance productivity, says WatchGuard CEO.

With a barrage of applications in the market, a complete ban of usage will be counterproductive to an enterprise. Instead, companies want to be able to allow access to these useful communication tools but with certain restrictions to meet their business requirements.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, WatchGuard Technologies CEO Joe Wang explained that companies these days still require certain personnel to access social media such as LindkedIn for hiring purposes. He noted that businesses in the past imposed a ban because there were no appropriate tools that enabled enterprises to manage such access.

Wang said: "A simplified ban will not satisfy companies. Technologies [to manage social media] weren't widely available before, but now most companies would choose to deal with these applications differently by allowing  certain people access to these platforms in order to increase productivity."

He added that with today's technology, IT managers can set policies to allow limited access, such as banning games and file exchange but letting employees log on to various platforms for communication.

WatchGuard recently released a new application control tool that allows enterprises to do just that, he said. It enales administrators to set policies and at the same time, "gain unprecedented visibility and control over applications traversing their networks".

Asked if this could constitute a breach of privacy to the users, Wang explained that it is up to the company's  discretion on how the policies are implemented.

"We merely provide the technology that allows companies to monitor and control where they see fit," he said.

On a bigger picture, the IT security vendor hopes its upgraded unified threat management (UTM) platform can give clients greater convenience and access in weeding out attacks that ride on social network platforms, by managing them in a "red box" that "speaks" with the servers.

When switched on, Wang said the "box" is capable of blocking threats at the server level based on antivirus signatures that are constantly updated.

Unlike other vendors, WatchGuard licenses the technology from bigger players such as AVG--instead of running its own research team--to monitor security threats. Wang explained that while it could cost less if the company did this  themselves, WatchGuard chose to adopt "the best of breed" approach to ensure its products stay on top of the competition.

When asked if it had plans to eventually set up a research team, the CEO said it would not be feasible as it would take some time before team reach the standards of big players such as AVG and Kaspersky Lab.

"The company cannot be the best at everything," Wang said. "Our strength lies in providing an integrated security solution platform by leveraging on their [signature licensors] knowledge and experience."

While the WatchGuard Application Control offering is "local", which requires implementation in a hardware system, he said product offerings that combine the "local box" and cloud-based elements will be the way forward.

"We think a hybrid combination of 'local' and cloud technology will be able to provide the best form of protection for enterprises," he noted.

Clients in the United States accounted for about 40 percent of WatchGuard's revenue last year, which included retail chains Starbucks and Burger King. While Asia-Pacific only contributed 12 percent of the pie, Wang said the region is on track for expansion, but did not reveal any specific plans.

"We have done quite well in Asia-Pacific. We had good growth for the first nine months of last year, where the region grew over 25 percent," he said. Singapore is home to the vendor's Asian headquarters.


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