WORKPLACE / SEP. 07, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How Many Of Your Colleagues Browse Adult Material At Work?

The past few days have sadly been awash with news that a large number of famous women have been the subject of hack attacks by criminals on the hunt for photos and videos of them in various compromising situations. 

If that act was not bad enough, it was sad to see the web jump on the situation, with a number of sites propagating the spread of the images, and of course social media accelerating the movement of the photos throughout the web.

Whilst there have been numerous threats by those associated with the women to prosecute sites helping the spread of the images, what can our organisations do about employees that choose to ’consume’ such material during work hours?

Do you think it isn’t a risk?

One would think that this kind of thing doesn’t happen on work time, and on work computers.  I mean people wouldn’t be so stupid, would they?  Well, you’d be surprised.  Last year researchers at ThreatTrack Security found that nearly half of security professionals had found malware on work machines after that machine had been used to consume adult material.

The real shocker is that the culprits were found to be senior leaders!  The research went on to say that the risk of viruses from adult material was almost as high as from nefarious emails, which is pretty incredible.

CEO of ThreatTack Julian Waits Sr commented upon the release of his study that the number of breaches in our organisations should not surprise anyone.

“Every day, malware becomes more sophisticated, and U.S. enterprises are constantly targeted for cyberespionage campaigns from overseas competitors and foreign governments,” he stated. “This study reveals that malware analysts are acutely aware of the threats they face, and while many of them report progress in their ability to combat cyberattacks, they also point out deficiencies in resources and tools.”

Is it unrealistic to think therefore that the kind of criminals that hacked into those accounts won’t also have infected the images themselves with some kind of virus?  If your employees are browsing them at work therefore, it raises serious security concerns.

Fear of social media

Of course, it is reasonably well known that there is a great deal of fear concerning social media usage at work.  Gartner for instance outline six stages of social media adoption through which they believe most organisations go through, with fear identified as the second of them.  Alas, the fear they identify is more associated with a loss of productivity and intellectual property than it is security.

This issue does appear to be flying under the radar somewhat.  A report by Altimeter recently outlined some of the risks involved in using social media at work, and highlighted some strategies organisations can use to mitigate those risks.

Again though, the risks identified failed to touch upon the security challenges of browsing illegal content whilst at work.  Nevertheless, the action plan that they create may be useful for managers seeking to minimise the IT security risks posed by browsing adult content at work.  The plan outlines a number of key steps:

  1. Identify the risk, which is especially important if you would rather brush the adult browsing of executives under the carpet
  2. Assess the risk, and have a frank discussion to gauge just how widespread such behaviours are
  3. Mitigate and manage the risk, once identified, it should be relatively easy to squash, but education is key here
  4. Evaluate and monitor the risk, use your IT networks to test whether your strategy is working

Does your own workplace have policies in place for adult browsing at work?

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