Posted by: Rob | May 21, 2008

Getting to the ‘net at work

I’ve probably mentioned before that I work for a large global company that originated in and remains headquartered in the United States. Like any large corporation, mine has the usual myriad of rules, policies, regulations and procedures – all of which are either incomprehensible or boring as hell.

Since our company’s computer network is tied to the internet, employees can be granted internet access. Naturally, there is a policy on internet usage at work. It must be for “business” purposes only. The company does relent a little and will allow for the occasional personal e-mail to be sent to family if an employee needs to check on something or someone. Kind of like personal use of company telephones.

Like most people, though, even our “best of the best” employees take all that they can get. I’ve sat in NetMeetings where a presenter* has flashed up their MS Outlook Inbox – most usually overflowing and not just with internal (or external business-related) e-mails – showing both personal e-mails and a decided lack of organization, or their MS Internet Explorer home page, with links to google or yahoo mail, finance, stock and banking pages.

However, recent events – like an internal news item highlighting the fact that P2P software was not, in fact, sanctioned under the company internet policy – coupled with a decidedly noticeable increase in internet access time have led me to believe that the problem is simply broader than the fact that my colleagues in the two time zones to the east of me have internet addiction problems.**

After several particularly frustrating attempts to access the internet this morning, I went snooping around the status board to see if anything was up. I found a couple of gems:

Case:

This Critical FW_CUST_MON event was received by a TEC server at May 20, 2008 9:23:45 AM EDT. [FW = FIREWALL]

OI: Open (sev 1) case to Firewall team.
Action Log:

Fw team needs workstation to look at the machine above

Description: fw team is lowering severity of this case to have the workstation team looking at the workstation that is causing this problem

*** Transfer Notes Log 20-MAY-2008 13:47:37
Description: [Workstation 1 USERID],
[Workstation 2 USERID], [Workstation 3 USERID]

workstation team please look at those 3 workstations above and see if you can find any kind of P2P software on those.

*** Transfer Notes Log 20-MAY-2008 13:48:23
Description: please transfer this case to workstation team.

*** Transfer Notes Log 20-MAY-2008 16:20:40

Action Type:Support Engineer Upd
Your case has been dispatched to the workstation team in your time zone.
Your case will be prioritized and you will be called back.

*** NOTES 21-MAY-2008 08:57:55 [21-MAY-2008 09:57:55 GMT-03:00]

Action Type:Support Engineer Upd
checking [Workstation 1 USERID]: Calling user…
No answer. Sent a detailed email asking user to reply with availability or send a meeting invite. Lowering priority.

*** NOTES 21-MAY-2008 09:07:38 [21-MAY-2008 10:07:38 GMT-03:00]

Action Type:Support Engineer Upd
checking user: [USERID], [USER – i.e. employee – NAME]…..
No Answer. Left voice mail and sent email informing user that he’s been identified as possibly having P2P software on the workstation. I asked him to reply to the email with his availability or to sent me a meeting invite.

*** NOTES 21-MAY-2008 09:29:25 [21-MAY-2008 10:29:25 GMT-03:00]

Action Type:Support Engineer Upd
The following were removed from [USER NAME]’s workstation:
1. BitComet
2. eMule
3. ICBC Personal Banking…….
4. PowerWord 2007
5. An unidentified application which only displayed Chinese..

=============================================================

The second case was a litany similar to the above where the IT detectives snooped out a troublesome workstation on the network and, finally, resolved the situation:

User had skype application which was removed from the network.

Now, admittedly, I am not worthy of a halo when it comes to use of the internet at work. But I’m not an idiot either. I find it quite mind boggling that people would think it’s okay to load up the company workstation with all sorts of unauthorized software, including P2P applications. IN SPITE of the oft publicized policy that clearly states this sort of activity is not only not permitted, but flagrant violations can get your ass FIRED!

It’s clearly written that internet access may be logged. From the above, it’s pretty plain that if you’re doing something untoward and it’s causing a network problem, you will be found out and face the consequences. It’s just a matter of time, I think, until our corporate portal to the world wide web is closed again and written off as an experiment that did not go well.

* Why do people with the worst PC housekeeping skills insist on sharing their desktop in NetMeetings?

** Internet access times go from “Can not find this page” to blazingly fast after those in the east have called it quits for the day.

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