Paramount & Websense target Internet abuse

Internet abuse in the workplace is rife and growing throughout the Middle East. As a result, companies are beginning to investigate the benefits offered by employee Internet management solutions.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  March 12, 2002

Internet abuse in the workplace is rife. IDC reports that between 30 to 40% of Internet surfing conducted during work hours is non-business related while a recent UCLA study shows that 60.7% of employees use the Web during business hours for personal reasons.

According to Harish Kunnath, managing director of Paramount Computer Systems, such Internet misuse is spreading to the Middle East as a growing number of the region’s workforce logs onto non-work related sites during business hours.

“Although we don’t have specific figures we have spoken to our customer base. IT managers and the contacts we have at the large corporate organisations have accepted that it [Internet abuse] is growing,” he says.

This non-business surfing poses a serious security threat to companies. Disenfranchised employees can easily propagate Internet based security threats through the Web while ignorant workers can download infected files from free e-mail sites without even knowing it.

“So many companies here and all over the world will not give their employees access to the Internet because they are worried about what their employees are going to do,” says Geoff Haggart, vice president, EMEA, Websense.

However, the effects of unauthorised surfing are further reaching than just security threats. Misuse of Web time also means less productive workforces.

“Local ISPs may deny access to certain sites but they do not block travel site or sports sites. However, does a bank employee need to look at these during business hours? I think not,” says Kunnath.

In an attempt to counter this trend, companies are seeking ways of monitoring user behaviour and regulating their surfing habits. This search has led to the growth of employee Internet management solutions, such as Websense’s server based Websense Enterprise offering.

Haggart explains that such solutions work in conjunction with an organisation’s security policies to control the type of web sites employees are able to access during business hours.

“A company can block the sinful six — gambling, adult, weapons, race, hate and bad taste sites — and limit other areas, such as online shopping, sports sites, travel sites or stock trading to one or two hours per day,” he says.

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