Keeping IT Clean

I think you would agree, you are kept very busy running your business. The last thing you need to deal with at your workplace is someone's fascination with online porn. First and foremost, it can open you up to sexual harassment complaints. You would be surprised how few people truly appreciate the nuance and subtleties of a website like good-n-greasy.com. The vast majority find it offensive and many will take action. The employee in question may not be going out of his way to cause offensive mischief, but his browsing habits can easily harm your company's reputation, cost you a great deal of money and possibly put you out of business.

The second issue is that, even if things did not go to that extreme, offensive Web browsing creates an atmosphere where productivity suffers since your employees will be somewhat polarized. Some will continue to work with their porn-addled compatriot, others won't get near him and in the middle will be those who have no clue as to what the ruckus is all about. Finally, porn sites are notorious for spreading malware. By visiting such sites, your employee can endanger your network, your records, everything. However you look at it, this is not a good situation.

The bottom line is that it is in your best interest, the best interests of your employees—at least those not yet scarred by a glance at the malefactor's monitor—and the best interests of your company, to keep the dirty websites out of your company.

Make the Policy Known

We are talking about a behavioral issue here. You should have a written policy regarding the kinds of behavior that are unacceptable and surfing porn sites at the office should be at least near the top of that list. Make your policy, including any associated discipline, very clear and apply it evenly and fairly. Make sure that all employees read and sign the policy so that no one can claim ignorance.

Use Your Technology

You have two basic technological allies in your fight against workplace porn. The first is Web Content Filtering and the other is Firewall Logging.

Content filtering is pretty much as it sounds. It works by looking at every site the user visits, making a note of inappropriate sites and blocking them. By itself, it cannot stop someone determined to get their porn fix, but it can tell you who is really looking for that fix, which will be useful when you decide that person needs to go. Remember, you have to be safe and build your evidence before firing someone, and that brings us to Web activity logging.

By examining your firewall activity logs, you will see who is going to what sites, how often, whether they download anything. It will give you an enterprise-wide look at the online habits of your staff and it will allow you to deal with the problem if you find it. One idea, for those who don't necessarily wish to terminate an offender—or if you have lots of offenders—it to publish the most-visited sites, posting the list in a prominent place where all can see it. By doing this, you let the staff know, in no uncertain terms, that you are watching and that you know what some of your people have been doing. The most likely result of this is a sudden and dramatic drop in porn surfing, which is what you want.

There are other things you can try with your firewall data, but in the end, it is not a technology issue, porn at the office is a management issue—a potentially very dangerous one—and it must be handled as such.