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21 Sep 2007

Tighter computer usage policies could have prevented council eBay sackings

Web access should be controlled during work hours before employees become addicted.

Sophos WS1000 Web Security and Control appliance
Sophos's WS1000 appliance defends firms against web threats, and allows IT departments to block access to unapproved sites.

IT security and control firm Sophos is warning organizations of the need to implement and enforce policies to control employee use of internet sites during work hours. The warning follows news that three workers at Neath Port Talbot council in Wales have lost their jobs after spending too long on the internet auction site eBay when they should have been working.

According to reports, one employee has been sacked, two have resigned and another has received a warning. A further two cases are currently ongoing and overall, during the last 18 months, up to seven council staff have lost their jobs. However, Sophos experts note that these extreme actions could have been prevented if the council had put in place proactive measures to control and block the inappropriate use of the web at work.

"Most businesses allow some level of internet access during office hours, and this is crucial to many jobs. However, it is essential that employees are not allowed to run wild and spend as much time as they like on whatever happens to be their favorite site," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos. "When staff do start to do this, firms must nip the problem in the bud before it can escalate into the kind of situation Neath Port Talbot council is currently experiencing. It's simple to block access to non-essential websites, and certainly a lot less embarrassing than having to sack or discipline staff."

The council reportedly had security software in place to prevent access to inappropriate web pages, such as porn sites, but not eBay and other legitimate websites.

Sophos recommends that all businesses learn from Neath Port Talbot council's situation and ensure they deploy web security software that can be tailored to block any sites that the organization deems inappropriate and non-essential for office-based web browsing. Sophos further recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.