Using the internet for personal purposes in the workplace reduces employee productivity and costs you money. Internet abuse is a problem because browsed content can raise ethical questions and typically the kinds of sites visited would be a violation of company policy. This is in addition to the fact that the time and frequency of accessing the internet compromises productivity. Many inappropriate sites are infected with malware either directly or through advertiser networks, causing a greater risk to company data, information integrity, and network performance.Productivity

What constitutes internet abuse?

Workplace internet abuse is a significant risk factor for employer liability, costing employers’ valuable hours of work. Internet abuse ranges from viewing pornography in private offices to spending hours on social sites, playing online games, shopping online and paying bills through the company internet. Other consequences of improper internet use include litigation issues, such as sexual harassment, hostile work environments and discrimination.

Revoking network privileges

One way to deal with this problem is to entirely remove internet access. Unfortunately, such a decision has the negative effect of punishing those who don’t abuse the privilege. In addition, it’s impossible to completely banish personal internet usage when the business relies heavily on Internet for communication, research and up-to-date information.

Monitoring internet usage

One way to reduce employer liability is to monitor and filter employee internet use. Although there are disagreements about the principle behind internet monitoring, many employers agree that it is a necessary ‘evil’. This solution requires some investment and changes in the networking infrastructure but can provide an almost immediate Return on Investment (ROI). It is also necessary to draft an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), implementing specific rules of personal internet before implementing such a change.

How strict you would like to run your network is up to you. We’ve worked with banks and medical offices that only want their employees to visit specific sites that are related to work and nothing more, not even search engines. The other end of the spectrum (where most companies lie) are businesses that allow full access. At the very least, you should request that your IT service provider filter sites distributing viruses and other malware, pornography, and hate speech. This will provide your business some reduction of risk without completely stifling the freedom you allow your employees. However, its not uncommon to go further and block video sharing or streaming websites (watching the Olympics or the Final Four can sap your Internet bandwidth!), social media, and/or shopping.

If you want to discuss internet monitoring solutions for your business, please give us a call and we will provide you with a free network report card. We’ll also provide you a FREE Acceptable Usage Policy as a starter.