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LGCnet COMMENT: I'VE BEEN SEARCHING THE NET FOR 'PORN'

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Admittedly, my search has been limited to ...
Admittedly, my search has been limited to the LGCnet archive, but I was still delighted to uncover 135 items of interest. Walsall MBC's high profile but anonymous, porn-surfing 'Employee X', whose exploits made it to the Birmingham Postand onto LGCnet, might as well have been trawling our archive for all the disciplinary action his employer was able to take.
At the time, council leader Mike Bird said that Walsall MBC recovered a volume of inappropriate material from the employee's terminal, yet its hands were tied over the way it obtained the information. Bear in mind, this was material downloaded as Employee X sat on his council chair at his council desk, downloading pornography onto his council terminal, possibly even in council time. Cllr Bird was exasperated, and understandably so.
Almost a year ago, I opened an e-mail containing the Spanish virus at work, completely unaware of its content. Two friends of mine were holidaying in Mexico at the time, and I assumed that the jolly Subject line in Spanish was their attempt to show off to their friends. How we laughed, as my machine replicated the virus and it copied itself to everyone in my e-mail address book, bouncing it around inside the firewall.
My name popped up in the IT department as public enemy number one, the propagator of the virus, and they dropped by for a friendly chat. This is as it should be. An IT department is failing in its duties if it does not at least monitor employees' computer use patterns, if not prevent inappropriate use by employing 'nanny' software.
It is as impossible for any internet-enabled organisation's network managers to ignore a user with an inappropriate browsing pattern, or one whose e-mail scores too highly on an adult content rating system, as it is for a bank to ignore someone whose bank account is seriously and/or frequently overdrawn.
To read the comments of Unison branch secretary Reg Evans about how the 'interception' of the employee's communications breached his human rights, one would think Walsall MBC's methods were not far short of a 'honey trap'. Perhaps the council gave him his own office, with a lockable door and blinds, and monitored him, Big Brother style? Or perhaps not.
Part of the problem may be procedural. If you do not have, or do not distribute, policies for Internet and e-mail use and abuse, it's impossible to prove that an employee has knowingly contravened them.
Your organisation's network management may be second to none, but how sound are your anti-porn policies and procedures?
by Assistant Editor Neil Watson
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