Web filtering and reporting tools for the small business

Surprise! Your router might be your best defense against legal liability and objectionable content

Last month, ICANN approved the .xxx top-level domain for adult websites. It's been a controversial subject for many years, with conservatives saying the domain legitimizes the porn industry and pornographers decrying digital segregation. Well, the domain is approved, but there is no law in place that will force adult websites to use it (at least, not yet).

What inappropriate, offensive, or illegal content might come into your organization through the Internet? If you aren't sure, your company could be in for serious legal liability issues. Consider the following quotes and statistics:

[ The Web browser is your portal to the world -- as well as the conduit that lets in many security threats. InfoWorld's expert contributors show you how to secure your Web browsers in this "Web Browser Security Deep Dive" PDF guide. ]

  • Among Fortune 500 companies, 27 percent have battled sexual harassment claims stemming from employee misuse and abuse of corporate email and Internet systems, reports the American Management Association.
  • Internet misuse costs businesses $178 billion annually, reports Websense.

You can't count on built-in software filtering tools
Personally, I've been an advocate for parental controls for as long as the Internet has been widely available to families. It's obvious I'm not the only one who sees the need for family safety; for example, Microsoft recently released as part of its Live Essentials package (a free online solution) a tool called Windows Live Family Safety, which allows parents to set up parental controls through a Windows LiveID.

That comes on the heels of both Windows Vista and Windows 7, including an item called Parental Controls. The Vista version bundled Internet protection with time limit control, gaming control, and activity logs for parents to use. Windows 7 includes the time limits and gaming control but pushed all the Internet protection off to the Family Safety tools, which can be downloaded for all three Windows operating systems (Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7).

These tools can benefit not only families but also schools, libraries, and kiosks. However, once you take a Windows Vista or Windows 7 PC and connect it to a network domain, you lose the Parental Control options. Small businesses could miss out on important filtering if they rely solely on such software tools.

What can businesses do to block content they or the law may deem inappropriate for working environments? What steps can you take to ensure your workplace is not considered a "hostile work environment" due to the content displayed on employees' desktops?

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