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As enterprises grapple with whether social networking creates security risks
and productivity losses, a new study from the Ohio
State University
suggests there is a link between the use of Facebook and lower grades among
college students.

According to the survey of 219 students, those who said they use Facebook
have grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5 and study 1 to 5 hours per week.
Conversely, non-Facebook users have GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0, and study 11
hours or more per week.

The study found that 79 percent of Facebook users believe that it has no
impact on their academic performance.

"It cannot be stated [that] Facebook use causes a student to study
less,” says Aryn Karpinski, the graduate student who conducted the research.
"I’m just saying that they’re related somehow, and we need to look into it
further."

The report comes at a time when businesses of all sizes are grappling with
the impact of social networking on data security, integrity of intellectual
property, corporate reputation and individual worker productivity.

At a conference in New York
last year, Merck Chief Information Officer J. Chris Scalet recounted exposure to
the changing paradigm shift in worker and student behaviors in social networking
when his daughter was home from college one weekend. He told the story of
finding his daughter in his home office, iPod blaring, cellphone buzzing with
text message, Facebook page open and, off to the side, an open textbook. And,
he said, she called that studying.

“It dawned on me that in two and a half years my daughter is going to be in
the work force,” says Scalet, who is also senior vice president of global
services at pharmaceutical giant Merck. “Her ability and what she’s going to
look for in tools and how she’s going to work in the future are going to be
very different from today. She’s going to expect these [collaboration] tools—what
we have today and what we’re going to have in the future.”

When Scalet was asked how his daughter did on the test, Steve Papermaster,
the chief executive of nGenera and host of the event, interjected and
questioned the relevancy of grades and testing in the social networking
generation. “Perhaps we’re not testing them right or the tests aren’t right for
them,” he said.

Until recently, social networking through sites such as Facebook and MySpace
was seen as a pursuit of young people. Nowadays, social networking is gaining
acceptance among all demographics. A recent report stated that the growth of
microblogging site Twitter is being fueled by middle-aged and seasoned workers.

Security threats associated with social networks loom large for businesses,
as hackers and malware writers are planting Trojans, worms and malicious code
in media-rich social networking Web pages for distribution to user PCs.

Recently, security companies Fortinet, Trend Micro and Websense released new
security products that scan sections of Web pages and perform deep inspection
of HTML data streams for malicious content, blocking risky code while providing
users with access to social networking functionality.

"Customers are looking to deploy Web security solutions inline because
they need to scan and classify the content in real time, as it comes over the
wire," says David Meizlik, director of product marketing for Web and data security
at Websense. “The end goal is to allow access to sites and the good content
they contain, but block access to what bad or inappropriate content also exists
on that page, without blocking the entire page.”