The number of companies blocking access to social networking sites has risen by nearly a quarter in the past six months, according to new research from ScanSafe.
The security-as-a-service provider analysed more than a billion web requests a month over the period, and found that 76 per cent of its customers are now blocking sites such as Facebook, trumping the number blocking access to online shopping sites (52 per cent), sports sites (51 per cent) and webmail (58 per cent).
Other sites showing large increases in blocking included travel sites (28 per cent), restaurant and bar sites (27 per cent) and, unsurprisingly, job sites (19 per cent).
Spencer Parker, director of product management at ScanSafe, argued that the statistics clearly show employers wising up to the malware dangers from these sites and the negative impact on productivity.
"Social networking sites can expose businesses to malware and, if not used for business purposes, can be a drain on productivity and bandwidth," he said.
"Given the option, companies are increasingly taking a sterner approach to the sites that their employees are allowed to access. I imagine that, before long, social networking will be up there with pornography in terms of categories blocked."
However, Andrew Clarke, senior vice president at vulnerability management firm Lumension, maintained that companies which block social networking sites based solely on security fears need to re-evaluate their application controls.
"Companies need to remember that there are plenty of other sites which might contain malware," he explained. "So, rather than trying to ban these sites, organisations should embrace these new social tools and the productivity they engender, having implemented the necessary precautions."
John Cunningham, director of business markets at ntl:Telewest Business, also argued that firms need to think about how they can harness rather than block these sites.
"With more and more digital natives entering the workplace, for whom social networking is an everyday part of life, companies need to take a step back and think about how these tools can be of benefit to their organisation," he said.
"It is easy to dismiss them as unproductive but, as communication becomes evermore instantaneous, social networks can facilitate staff in their job role, as well as having the added benefit of encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing."
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