A new survey of 200 small to medium sized businesses across the globe suggests companies may be putting themselves at risk to security vulnerabilities by allowing employee’s access to social networking sites while at work.

Spam and web filtering software provider SpamTitan Technologies found that almost all of the respondent organisations allowed personal access to the internet and some social networking applications by employees. Whilst over three quarters of those surveyed agreed web filtering was an important tool, less than half admitted to not using a web filtering system within their organisation.

The most common reasons for not using web filtering were cost and the absence of a legal obligation, making it a low priority in difficult economic times.

The business risk of Web 2.0 applications like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace goes beyond just the potential time-wasted by employees focusing on these sites instead of their work. With the sites becoming ever popular with the younger generation so they are becoming bigger target of malicious code, viruses and key-loggers. The survey revealed most businesses were aware of the possible security risks and planned to introduce more stringent policies at some point, but it was not an urgent priority.

Businesses have the difficult balancing act to address of the benefits and risks of Web 2.0 and the desire to keep employee satisfaction high, but as the survey reveals too few organisations are yet to address the problem correctly. Considering the potential consequences of a key-logger gaining access to your network or a virus attacking your internal systems, it is perhaps time that organisations looked closer at the control of what their employees are allowed access to.

Do you have web-filtering in place? Do you understand the risks Web 2.0 can pose?