Creating Internet Policies for Employees

With all of the vulnerabilities that come along with being on the internet, everyone needs to be mindful of their activities. This includes paying close attention to visiting certain sites, clicking on links, and downloading files. If you can take steps to provide a basic level of protection for everyone at your organization, you should. As new employees join your team, it’s important for them to know these restrictions and guidelines are for their protection more than just setting restrictions. Here are some items to consider in your internet policy to keep you, your employees, and your customers data safe.

Accessing Personal Email

It is a best practice to restrict access to employees’ personal email, including accessing Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and others through webmail services. This avoids the possibility of an employee accessing personal email during business hours that could contain malicious links, or other insecure items that could breach the company’s network security. Most organizations who are taking their security seriously have email software that will scan incoming emails and/or file for viruses. If you have anti-virus software, it is recommended to download your email attachments to your desktop before opening. Your AV software will scan the file to make sure it isn’t infected. This also eliminates the ability for company files to be sent from employee’s personal email addresses. It also enforces employees to use company-sanctioned email platforms and company branding.

Internet Content Filtering

Along with filtering personal email sites, you should also put restrictions on content. Security appliances such as SonicWALL firewalls offer this level of protection to their users. You can filter by categories, geographic IP addresses. These policies can be enforced for specific times of the day, or for only certain groups of users. For example, your Marketing department may need access to social media sites to share company news, but other employees shouldn’t be spending time on their own social media networks during company time. Other categories you should consider restricting are:

  • Violence
  • Weapons
  • Mature Content
  • Gambling
  • Alcohol/Tobacco
  • Hacking/Proxy Avoidance Systems
  • Malware
  • Radicalization and Extremism

Downloading Software or Applications

Despite best efforts by IT or management to have the necessary line of business software pre-loaded on a users machine, it is not uncommon for additional software to be needed. All employees should be restricted from downloading software and applications to their computers themselves. Unfortunately, there are cyber criminals out there that are waiting for people to download software that may replicate the real thing, such as Adobe Acrobat, but is really a virus. Also, users may not be as mindful if they are downloading a legal version of software and may download an unlicensed or pirated version. Pirated software is illegal and could result in a high fine of $150,000 or more, and even imprisonment of up to 5 years. Any software or application that needs to be downloaded should require Administrator credentials and IT or manager approval. It is also important to ensure the software is compatible with the machine and will not cause any problems on the corporate network.

Company-Owned Equipment

Although it may be common sense to some, it may not be to everyone. Make sure your policy states that any company-owned equipment, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and cell phones, should be used for company business only. Employees should avoid storing passwords, saving personal files/photos/music, and especially should not be accessing their personal accounts (email, too) from these devices. They are expensive and are ultimately the employees’ responsibility if lost, stolen, or damaged. This could also lead to cyber criminals gaining access to company data. Cloud based accounts can sync to other machines when logged in. If a user logs into a company machine using their own personal Microsoft Live account, they could accidentally sync all of their personal files to that machine without even realizing it.

Social Media

It may not be possible for all companies or all employees to be banned from social media sites. The marketing team needs to share content, sales needs to engage with prospects, and Technical teams may need access to IT networks for collaboration. There are ways to word your policy to include social media, such as: “We strongly encourage you to limit your social media to work-related content and outreach only during work hours.” Other important points to convey to your employees is their messaging in light of the company brand and reputation.


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