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Risk

4/17/2008
08:56 AM
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What Are Your Employees Doing on the Road?

Trust can be a trait that takes long time to develop but can be quickly broken. If your company trusts its employees to use the Internet judiciously on the road, then it may be time to rethink that position.

Trust can be a trait that takes long time to develop but can be quickly broken. If your company trusts its employees to use the Internet judiciously on the road, then it may be time to rethink that position.The notion that individuals will try to get away with as much as possible if no one is looking was confirmed in a recent survey by ScanSafe, a software-as-a-service Web monitoring vendor. The company compared Internet usage patterns by individuals working in the office to those stationed remotely. Mobile workers visit illegal file sharing sites 8.5 times more often; extreme websites (sites with extremely graphic content) 5.2 times more frequently; illegal activities sites (for example sites with information on building explosives) 3.9 times more often; and pornography sites 2.5 times more frequently than coworkers huddled in an office.

There are a couple of possible reasons for the discrepancy. Perhaps, remote workers think that no one is watching what they are doing because they are out of the office. Maybe, their inhibitions about someone walking by and viewing what is on their screen disappear because they are not sitting in a public place. Perhaps, they are using company computers to view these materials on what they regard as their own personal time on the road.

Regardless of the underlying rationale, remote users viewing habits create a couple of problems for small and medium businesses. The fact that so many of these workers are visiting illegal file sharing sites leaves their employer open to possible legal prosecution for the offense. The discrepancy also means that remote workers are not as productive as they could be.

ScanSafe obviously wants companies to use its services to bring the remote usage patterns in line with their office co-workers, and such services can be helpful in achieving that goal. In addition, small and medium businesses need to educate their employees about the proper use of company computers, especially when they are on the road. Maybe then, employees will prove worthy of your trust.

How many of your employees work remotely? What security checks do you have in place for them? Would you be surprised if their viewing patterns differed from individuals working in the office?

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