INFO TECHNOLOGY: MANAGING INFO RISK

Time nears for Internet monitoring

The Internet and email have changed the way we communicate, with better and more immediate access to information. This young medium has, undoubtedly, already brought extensive and fruitful contributions to all sorts of businesses. However, fascination with the Internet, frequently resulting in dependence upon it, often distracts employees from carrying out their duties.
Employee abuse of email and Internet is already a phenomenon common all over the world. Overcoming this problem takes active management and the establishment of a corporate policy for email and Internet use.


Peter Borak

The Internet and email have changed the way we communicate, with better and more immediate access to information. This young medium has, undoubtedly, already brought extensive and fruitful contributions to all sorts of businesses. However, fascination with the Internet, frequently resulting in dependence upon it, often distracts employees from carrying out their duties.

Employee abuse of email and Internet is already a phenomenon common all over the world. Overcoming this problem takes active management and the establishment of a corporate policy for email and Internet use. Although the impulse for this must come from the top, prior to formulating any policies to be applied, the core of the problem has to be well-understood by the company board itself.

A growing number of companies are now introducing email and Internet use control or monitoring. On the basis of the findings of such a check, management can often proceed to discipline their employees for Internet misuse in the workplace. One thing has to be clear - email has great potential in its productivity power and information flow improvement capacity, but at the same time it can also do the opposite and lower working performance at all levels (e.g. sending/receiving/copying useless office mails and inappropriate personal mail, etc).

The copying and forwarding of enormous volumes of received mail among employees, and also between employees and the outside world, is necessarily followed by an information slow-down (instead of information flows speeding up, as originally conceived). There is also a legal dimension to the problem - without a copyright notice on all emails going out of the company, the information contained may be reproduced without any redress on the company's part.

Company management is also responsible for the content of employees' email correspondence (i.e. circulation of inappropriate email messages in the corporate email system). Special attention must also be paid to libel via email, as the majority of courts view email as formal communication.

Employees with Internet access often become committed 'cyber surfers' to a much greater extent than is necessary for performance of their proper jobs.

The time when company leaders invest in Internet use control is rapidly approaching. But before they select their future Internet/email tracking solution, they must implement their own Internet/email use policy. As for "surf abuse" control mechanisms, there are two types of them: 1) web filtering software with a database of Internet sites, blocking unauthorised Internet addresses or URLs; or 2) content recognition software, searching for words in context - e.g. "hot", "girls" etc.).


Peter Borak is Information Risk Manager at KPMG Slovensko. His column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to pborak@kpmg.sk.

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