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How to Protect Employees from Committing Online Malpractice at Work

Recently, CensorNet conducted a study among 1000 adults in the UK which revealed that every IT support and security team’s nightmares were happening in reality. 13% of the study’s participants admitted to downloading pirated content at work, while 25% confessed to using work email ids to access games, apps and social media. One out of every ten participants even disclosed their crimes of accessing adult content from prohibited websites at work. What’s most troubling about this activity is that the employer could be held liable for an employee’s activities over the internet.

Who’s responsible for preventing employee online malpractice?

In the past, such issues may have fallen under the prerogative of the HR department, but our digital advancement has shifted this responsibility onto the shoulders of the IT support and security teams. While it is unsettling to learn that employees are violating the ethics and rules of the workplace, it’s expected of the IT support and security teams in charge to account for error-prone human behaviour.

So, what exactly does employee online malpractice entail? And what are its consequences?

The same study previously mentioned also brought to light a disturbingly common practice among employees of organisations in the UK. 20% of the participants confirmed that they had at least once uploaded confidential official documents without permission on publicly accessible storage services such as Dropbox or Google Drive, and even public messengers such as Whatsapp or Telegram.

Eight in every 100 employees even admitted to having accidentally shared confidential links with unauthorised parties, indicating a potentially threatening leak of classified information and a breach of data security regulations.

Some of these activities never command severe action from IT support and security simply because the intent behind them isn’t malicious. Most IT support and security teams even tend to ignore other negative effects such as employee downtime and maladaptive work culture because they aren’t relevant to the IT domain.

Most employees commit these errors in the ignorance of their potential to damage a company. Many employees are usually in pursuit of the quickest, most effortless way to get their jobs done. Other employees download inappropriate content at work without fully grasping the security breach that could manifest as a result of the malware and viruses typically thrive within these websites.

Enough about the threats! How should IT support deal with online malpractice among employees?

Blocking is probably the most commonly used tactic to thwart employees’ attempt to access undesirable content and channels at work. But exactly how effective is this tactic and to what extent can it be implemented? Remember, the goal is to mitigate risks without affecting employees’ productivity or morale. Flat-out banning DropBox and forcing employees to use a more secure but complex, time-consuming solution might only earn you their detest.

One potential solution could be to block specific activity. So, for instance, if your business requires employees to download content shared by third-party individuals, say clients, you may want to enable download but restrict upload on commonly used file-sharing systems.

Alternatively, employers around the world also consider solutions such as online activity monitoring so they can prevent the abuse of resources provided to employees. However, this tactic again should be exercised with caution. Depending on the type of workplace culture you are aiming to create, you may or may not want to enable employee monitoring within your IT support department.

As a safety measure, you could hire an IT support London company that has expertise in the prevention of online malpractice to access the best possible solution for your specific situation.

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