May 25, 2020

Spy software makes campus employees nervous

In 2004 jargon, George Orwell might write “Big Bro Is Watching You” when it comes to the Web-content filtering software that has students, staff and faculty nervous.
Web filtering or spyware is a controversial issue that starkly divides employees and managers. Blocking and monitoring Web access for children at home or school can be appropriate, but does it have any place at work?
CEU’s Chief Information Officer, Eric Mantz, wants to put rumors of someone watching CEU’s Internet usage to rest with explanations of what his department is doing.

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In 2004 jargon, George Orwell might write “Big Bro Is Watching You” when it comes to the Web-content filtering software that has students, staff and faculty nervous.
Web filtering or spyware is a controversial issue that starkly divides employees and managers. Blocking and monitoring Web access for children at home or school can be appropriate, but does it have any place at work?
CEU’s Chief Information Officer, Eric Mantz, wants to put rumors of someone watching CEU’s Internet usage to rest with explanations of what his department is doing.
According to an e-mail released to faculty and staff on March 22, Mantz wrote that Internet monitoring has gone on at CEU from the time the first firewall was installed in 1998. Firewalls look at the network traffic, block some of it and report on it.
“Since the first firewall, we have also installed a network intrusion detection system (IDS) – which has been active for the most part of 2 years. This IDS system categorizes and classifies traffic – especially traffic that is the type that is illegal, generated by hackers, or can invade and exploit workstations. Of necessity both the firewall and the IDS track the sender and the receiver,” he wrote.
” If anyone on campus is afraid that someone knows what activity they have been doing, I have one consolation – nobody has cared, unless it was having a significant impact on the network. Of course, the goal is to keep the network running, and I believe those that have worked at other higher education institutions can attest to the fact that we have less network problems and outages at CEU.
“If there is a potential problem, in the past, I have notified the individual and they have corrected it. In most cases, it has been others accessing their computer or a malicious program/virus/Trojan that was downloaded on their computer by mistake. The Utah Educational Network also sees our traffic and has, at times, contacted me about a particular user,” Mantz wrote.
CEU is using a limited-trial version of Websense.com, a program costing $7,800 per year for fewer than 500 users. Websense generates a report monitoring access to various categories of Web sites. These sites can vary from the bad ones like porn, drugs, hacking and hate to those like shopping, sports, hobbies and gambling.
According to the Websense web site, the software is used by 20,000 organizations worldwide, including thousands of schools and universities. Websense allows you to transparently monitor, report and manage Internet usage.
The software allows you to filter out inappropriate content and allow relevant information to reach students. “For instance, if a student performs an Internet search for “breast cancer”, he/she will not be blocked because of the word “breast” which can imply sexually explicit Web content,” explains the website.
There are two sides to this coin, writes Bill Gassman, principal analyst at market research firm Gartner. “There haven’t been that many lawsuits, productivity is up overall and bandwidth is cheap.” Many employees wonder whether Web filtering is like taking away pens to prevent idle doodling.
Privacy and trust issues come up, and though companies do have the right to monitor employees, most are reluctant to enforce procedures that tell their employees “we don’t trust you.” Like spying on your spouse, these policies can quickly lead to distrust on all sides, writes Robert P. Lipschutz in PC Magazine.
He feels that some companies are drawn to Web-filtering solutions by a lack of perceived control and does not want technology thrown at the problem. He also writes that filtering products have high yearly subscription fees and these products don’t protect networks or employees from viruses and hacks.
Mantz suggests that filtering products are not designed for viruses and hacks, but the use of these products can stop individuals from going to sites and downloading malicious software. They also can stop “peer-to-peer” software like Kazaa.
Mantz wrote that, “Employee Internet management is becoming a necessity for most all institutions. In the past, firewalls were installed to keep unsolicited traffic out; however, keeping employees from creating the unwanted traffic, bringing in viruses and hackers, or wasting time has become a national concern.
“Finally, in our efforts to provide a stable network environment that falls within statutes of the law and policy, please remember we will not violate your privacy. If a problem arises, we will first notify you individually, and only if the problem continues or is blatant in nature will we notify your supervisor.”

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