Sex, gambling and US gov't staff Internet misuse

The title of a report issued this week by the Department of Interior's Inspector General -- "Excessive Indulgences: Personal Use of the Internet at the Department of the Interior" -- pretty much says it all, but here's a bit more.

The department, which oversees national parks, land management and more, encourages most of its 80,000 employees to use the Internet for work-related duties. A one-week study by the department's Inspector General found, however, that a lot of abuse is going on. Among the study's findings:

-- Computer-use logs revealed more than 4,732 entries relating to sexually explicit Web sites and gambling sites. Some computers accessed sex sites for 30 to 60 minutes during the test period.

-- This activity accounted for more than 24 hours of Internet use during the sample period, which did not include a review of e-mail or other means of transferring prohibited material.

-- More than 1 million log entries were discovered indicating 7,763 Department computer users spent 2,004-plus hours accessing game and auction sites. Extrapolated over the year, that could account for 100,000 lost work hours. Put another way, this would equal 50 full-time employees doing nothing but surfing online game and auction sites.

-- 177 disciplinary actions have been imposed on department computer users for inappropriate Internet use since 1999.

Despite these ongoing issues, the department is sensitive to Internet misuse, having had several employees convicted in the past for various offenses, including possession of child pornography. The department has appropriate-use policies in place and conducts regular training, although it does not have a systemwide monitor or blocking system yet. Some bureaus within the department do use such tools, and there are plans to provide them departmentwide.

The report concludes: "Efforts to prevent, deter and detect Internet access to inappropriate Web sites are inconsistent and must be improved."

The department has not been without other embarrassing Internet situations. Earlier this year the Office of Management and Budget gave it a grade of F for its cybersecurity system. Two years ago, the department even had the plug pulled on its Web site over security concerns.

There's more from the Inspector General's report here.

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