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Boost Security With A Web-Usage Policy

Managing internet access is essential for all businesses--especially with today's increasing regulatory requirements. The good news is that software and hardware systems to block, monitor, or otherwise control employee Internet access never have been better, but they must be balanced with legal, ethical, and employee morale issues. This is a tightrope that IT must walk.

Employees spend an incredible amount of time on the Internet--and often what they're doing is unrelated to their jobs. Jose Negron, technical director of Layton Technology Inc., a developer of IT-auditing and help-desk software, cites a recent study by Salary.com and America Online that found that employees squander an average of two hours of company time per day online, at an annual cost of $759 billion.

Productivity isn't the only Net-access issue; unsupervised employees are a prime target for spyware. Spyware costs companies $265 per user annually, says Frank Cabri, VP of marketing at security provider FaceTime Communications Inc.

Employees also can download and install a growing variety of applications, including instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, IP telephony, and anonymizing, without IT approval, all of which pose risk and some of which are malicious. Such programs often evade network defenses using techniques such as port agility (jumping around among open ports) and encryption, Cabri says. Users often don't realize their computers are being hijacked, and a malicious app may be downloaded via a seemingly harmless site, he says.

Finally, uncontrolled Net access lets employees view objectionable content that can create a hostile environment for other workers and increase your company's legal liability. Massive streaming of audio and video files also can put a strain on network resources.

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