An IT security audit conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at its Earth Resources Observation and Science Center has highlighted the importance of implementing technical solutions to control employee internet use.

Most organizations and businesses have strict rules covering acceptable use of the Internet on work computers. Those rules are usually explained when a new employee starts work. A document must be signed that confirms that the Rules have been understood and the employee is aware of the repercussions if the rules are violated.

For many organizations and businesses, those measures are deemed to be sufficient. Most employees understand the rules and adhere to them, but even though rule violations will likely result in termination, some employees take the risk as they believe they will not be caught.

Security Audit Reveals Extensive Policy Violations

During a recent USGS IT security audit, suspicious Internet traffic was identified. The discovery prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) to determine the source of the suspicious traffic.

The OIG investigation revealed malware had been installed on an employee’s computer and that the malware was the source of the suspicious communications. Further investigation revealed the employee had been routinely visiting adult websites, which routed through Russian websites that hosted malware. As a result of visiting those websites, the employee had inadvertently downloaded malware onto the work computer. Pornographic images had been downloaded, which were then transferred to an Android mobile and portable USB drive. The mobile was similarly infected with malware.

The employee was discovered to have viewed over 9,000 adult websites, even though USGS Rules of Behavior had been explained and a document was signed confirming those rules had been understood. Annual security training had also been provided in which the Rules of Behavior were reinforced.

Had USGS implemented a technical solution to control employee internet use and enforce its Rules of Behavior, the malware infection would have been avoided.

OIG made several recommendations to prevent future malware infections and similar abuses of its Rules of Behavior, which included enforcing a strong blacklist of URLs and to regularly monitor employee Internet use. Additionally, it was recommended that USGS implement controls that prevent employees from using unauthorized USB devices on their work computers.

In addition to implementing an advanced intrusion detection system and firewall, USGS is now enhancing its preventative countermeasures by detecting and blocking known pornographic websites and other websites with suspicious origins.

This is not the first time that the U.S. government has discovered employees have accessed pornography at work and it certainly will not be the last.

The problem is believed to be so widespread that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC11) proposed the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act on three occasions. The Act was prompted by the discovery that an Environmental Protection Agency had been accessing pornography at work. In that case, the employee had viewed pornography for 252 hours in a single year without detection.

The Easy Way to Control Employee Internet Use and Block Web-Based Threats

These cases show that organizations and businesses that rely on internal policies to control employee internet use are taking a considerable risk. It is not just the visiting of adult websites that carries an increased risk of malware infections. Malware can be downloaded from an extensive range of websites, even seemingly ‘legitimate’ sites.

Only by implementing a web filtering solution to control employee internet use will organizations and businesses be able to effectively reduce risk. A web filter is an appliance, virtual appliance, or cloud-based solution that prevents employees from accessing website content that violates acceptable Internet usage policies and blocks the accessing of websites that are known to be used for malicious purposes or have been infected with malware and exploit kits.

Control Employee Internet Use with WebTitan

WebTitan is a lightweight but powerful web filtering solution that allows organizations and businesses to carefully control employee internet use and block access to websites known to host pornography and other unsuitable for work content. A comprehensive reporting suite also allows employee internet use to be carefully monitored, including attempts to view prohibited content even if those attempts are not successful.

WebTitan can be deployed as a gateway solution on existing hardware or hypervisors or as a cloud-based solution hosted on TitanHQ servers. The solution is quick and easy to implement and configure and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. In addition to category-based filtering controls, the solution can block by keyword or keyword score and supports whitelists and blacklists.

If you want to control employee internet use and manage risk, call TitanHQ today for further information on WebTitan and find out how it can reduce the risk from web-based threats at your place of work.