Thursday, 19 February 2015

Social Media Competitors Joining Forces to Handle Security Threats

In the cut-throat world of social media, one could hardly expect competitors to work together for mutual benefit, however that is exactly what is happening among some of the biggest players, including Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.  The three companies are among a group of companies that have decided to work together in a joint effort to create something known as ThreatExchange.  The result of their collaboration will be a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that the participating companies can use to thwart cyber-attacks.

Social media companies are under increasing attack by creative hackers who have figured out how to use the platforms to spread malware across the Internet.  Up to this point, the management of these kinds of attacks has been limited to individual efforts at each affected company.  Nevertheless, as soon as one platform is reinforced, hackers simply move on to the next.  ThreatExchange is intended to solve that problem by allowing participating companies to constantly share relevant information in real-time.

The current infant state of ThreatExchange makes it a programme that is not yet ready to do battle with hackers on a large scale.  There are only a small number of participating companies, at least for now, sharing a small amount of information.  Nonetheless, there are plans to grow the programme to eventually include communications from dozens of players and a fair amount of automation.

While information sharing and networking among social media companies is now being developed, these two strategies are not the first attempts at controlling increasingly more sophisticated cyber-attacks.  For example, Facebook and Google both have programmes in place offering cash rewards to outsiders to identify and report security problems, however such programmes are a far cry from competitors actually networking to share previously secret information.

A Better Solution?

The idea of competing companies working side-by-side to stop security threats is not so unusual in some industries such as banking and insurance.  Nevertheless, for social media to engage in this sort of networking and collaboration is unusual.  Is the ThreatExchange concept the best solution for protecting networks against hackers, or is it just a better solution compared to each company trying to handle security on its own?

Only time will provide the answer to that question.  Nonetheless, there is legitimate concern that the collaborative efforts could backfire.  If too much information is shared and access not tightly controlled, hackers could get in and eventually defeat any security measures put in place.  If not enough information is shared, the entire exercise could end up being a waste of time and resources.

One thing we know for certain is that cyber-attacks are not going away.  That means social media companies, as with everyone else, have to continually develop new ways to protect the security of their networks.  For the time being, that might mean joining forces with competitors to share real-time information and create workable security solutions.  It is a brave new world that no one imagined a decade ago.

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