Bank puts anti-porn software in place


14 Sep 2004

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IFSC-based Dexia Fund Services has installed monitoring software on PCs to combat any so-called ‘visual viruses’ or pornographic images being downloaded and held on employee machines. The technology was supplied by PixAlert, a Dublin-based provider of image monitoring software.

PixAlert Enterprise, the company’s flagship monitoring product, was used in the implementation. The product, which has multi-source image detection and analysis capabilities, provides protection and monitoring of employee desktops as well as internet pages.

As part of the solution, PixAlert worked with Dexia to develop an ‘acceptable usage policy’ outlining guidelines for employees on what is the acceptable use of IT resources within the workplace.

Oscar Garcia, managing director, Dexia Fund Services, Ireland, said: “Staff protection and welfare is of utmost priority to our organisation. Through the implementation of this solution we believe we have created a situation whereby employees are protected from visual viruses and the risks associated with unwanted unsolicited emails and images in the workplace.”

Dexia is among a growing band of companies in Ireland and elsewhere that are effecting measurable IT usage policies for staff in accordance with legal and corporate governance requirements. Company directors are seeking to limit their personal and company liability by taking measurable steps to help eradicate the ‘inappropriate use of technology’- legalese for surfing porn sites – in the workplace.

The extent of the problem was recently highlighted by The Times in the UK, which reported that employees within the Department of Work and Pensions had been caught downloading two million pages of porn, including 18,000 pages of child porn, from the internet within an eight-month period up to March this year. Following a departmental investigation, 227 workers were disciplined, 12 of whom were dismissed. The report also noted that, despite the use of internet filtering software, which blocked access to certain sites, more than 500,000 pornographic images had been downloaded in June and July 2004 alone.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, John Nolan, chief executive of PixAlert, said the case showed the ineffectiveness of traditional monitoring software. “The technology deployed relied on internet or gateway software. Half a million images were downloaded even though these traditional solutions were in place.”

PixAlert works by placing on every desktop a software agent that can identify flesh tones. Once a suspect image is identified, the agent sends an alert to an administration console. The console scans the images and logs them to build a case file, if required.

According to Nolan, there is no prospect of innocent cases being caught in the trawl. “There are always going to be cases of inappropriate images received through spam or whatever. What PixAlert looks for is instances of employees downloading large numbers of images or storing them on their computer.”

He added it would be wrong for employers to think that because accessing adult porn sites at work is not actually illegal, they are not leaving themselves vulnerable to being sued by employees. “Inappropriate adult porn is not illegal but it is highly inappropriate and it exposes the company to sexual harassment claims by employees. The precedent is there in law,” he said.

He continued: “Company directors are now seeking to minimise the risks and legal liabilities that can result from not taking preventive steps to stop the inappropriate use of IT within their organisations. The implementation of a suitable e-security solution … ultimately helps clients reduce the level of operational risk affecting their organisation.”

By Brian Skelly

Pictured are John Nolan (right), chief executive of PixAlert with Annette Stack, managing director of Dexia Bank Ireland and Oscar Garcia, managing director, Dexia Fund Services, Ireland

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