Businesses that do not control Internet access by their employees on company computers may be facing more serious problems and risks than they realize. Some possible problems caused by not restricting Internet access are:
1) Lost productivity - Employees who surf the Internet on company time may waste hundreds of hours of company time per employee per year. Surveys indicate that many employees may spend from five to ten hours per week using the Internet for personal use while they are on company time. Typical activities included viewing pornography, gambling, and personal shopping.
2) Virus infection - Many Internet sites, especially porn sites, are set up to spread computer viruses, Trojans, and registry changes to your computers. These infections can steal data from the computer, use it to send bulk emails, block normal Internet use by forcefully redirecting your Web browser to advertising, and damage your computer.
3) Hostile work environment suits - There are a growing number of lawsuits being filed by women who consider workers viewing pornographic Web sites at the office to be a form of sexual harassment. There are also cases of minorities suing because their coworkers downloaded racist materials at work.
4) Online gambling - There have been cases of employees stealing from the company to pay off gambling debts incurred while gambling online at work. There have also been cases where an employee used the company computer for online gambling because their spouse would not let them do it at home. When the employee racked up huge debts, the spouse sued the employer for allowing the online gambling at work.
5) Illegal activities - Serious consequences can result for a company if employees engage in illegal Internet activities at work, such as purchasing or exchanging child pornography. At the very least, the company computer can be seized as evidence. Employees also sometimes download pirated software, which the company is then responsible for.
What can a company do to protect itself against such problems? There are two basic solutions:
1) Internet blocking - By blocking objectionable sites on company computers, companies can stop employees from creating potentially dangerous situations. This is most easily accomplished by installing Internet blocking software on the company computers. A typical program called Web Site Zapper allows employers to create a list of specific sites (usually company sites and sites the company routinely does business with) that the employee is allowed to visit and/or a list of subjects the employee may browse on the Internet (topics related to the company business). An alternative option with Web Site Zapper is to create a list of sites or subjects that the employee may NOT go to on the Internet, such as "gambling", "casino", "pornography", and so on. If the Web browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.) goes to any site that does not fit the criteria set up by the employer, Web Site Zapper immediately shuts down the Internet browser. Click here for more information about Web Site Zapper. You can also block all access to the Internet, including Web browsing, Instant Messaging, and email, with Internet Password Lock. This program disables all Internet access until you input a password. Click here for more information on Internet Password Lock.
2) Internet monitoring - If the employer does not wish to actually control employee Internet browsing, they can still keep a record of which sites the employee goes to. Often, the knowledge that the employer can monitor Internet use is enough to discourage employees from improper use of the company Internet access. One program that can monitor Internet use, either on individual computers or on networked computers, is Web Surfer Watcher. Click here for more information on Web Surfer Watcher.
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