So your business is running well, you like and trust your staff, they are getting their work done, and the computers and network are mostly running fine. Then you come across an article or talk to an IT expert who says you should start spying on your employees. You’d never even imagined doing something like that...but is there some validity to the the advice? Should you monitor your employees computer activities? The answer is yes, and here’s why.
Risks of Not Spying On Your Employees
The fact that things are running well right now is no guarantee that they will run well in the future, and the risks that are constantly threatening your business can be avoided with proper monitoring. Here are a few of the common risks facing your business, and how monitoring can help you protect yourself.
- Time Theft: You pay your employees to sit at their computer and accomplish certain tasks. You can’t (and shouldn’t) be physically standing behind each employee watching what websites they visit. There are countless stories of employees spending hours of every work day on Facebook and other social media sites, updating personal websites, selling items on eBay, or even working another job remotely. Any minute spent on personal or other non-business tasks is theft of your payroll dollars, not to mention your company’s productivity.
- Bandwidth/Resource Theft: Video streaming is becoming more popular every day. Sites like Netflix, Youtube...and even videos sent and received via email...can consume huge amounts of employee time and network bandwidth. We recently had a client complain to us that their internet was slow. They wanted our advice about which internet service they should upgrade to. Before advising them on how to spend more money, we did an analysis of their bandwidth only to find that employees were streaming Netflix all day long while they work. We saved them hundreds of dollars every month by avoiding the upgrade.
- Adult Content: In addition to streaming mainstream content, employees have been found to be watching pornography at work. Not only does it steal time and bandwidth, but allowing such activity opens you up to numerous lawsuits and huge legal costs. It’s best to avoid such things.
- Dangerous Websites: There are tens of thousands of websites -- and even entire countries -- that are known to present risks to any computer if visited. All a user needs to do is load a page from a malicious or compromised website in order to install a virus on your computer. From there, it’s only a matter of time until that virus can infect your whole network and take down your business. Even certain advertisements from sites as legitimate as Yahoo can include malicious spyware that can suck bandwidth and compromise your company’s privacy.
What to Monitor On Your Business Network
So how can you avoid these problems for your business? We recommend that our clients monitor not only their employees, but every device on their network in the following ways:
- Monitor Bandwidth By User and Device: You need a history of a user’s typical bandwidth usage to help you notice a sudden increase in bandwidth. Such an increase might indicate video streaming, sharing of company documents, excessive online gameplay, or worse. And it’s important to not only measure bandwidth by user, but also by device, since a compromised device (such as a network server, mail server, network access point, or other vital pieces of your network) might indicate usage by a hacker or virus.
- Monitor Activity with Your Firewall and an SIEM: For many larger companies, we install firewalls that collect network traffic and then connect them to a Security Information and Event Management system (SIEM) that not only analyzes that traffic, but alerts us when something looks suspicious. This technology can even apply Artificial Intelligence to detect abnormalities.
- Block activity to certain countries and sites: We can configure many firewalls to block all traffic to and from certain websites that are known to be bad. It’s also possible to block traffic to and from entire countries.
The next time someone suggests spying on your employees, know that the advice is not coming from an overbearing Big-Brother-Like desire to suppress employee creativity. It comes from a real concern for the health and welfare of your company and all its employees. Proper employee and computer monitoring can save your company from theft, viruses & malware, and even lawsuits.