TECH NOUS Image Conscious

There have been plenty of examples in recent times of individuals and organisations succumbing to an attack of “visual viruses” – otherwise known as inappropriate images in the workplace.
Despite the best attempts by some organisations to filter out illicit images from their networks, there are still incidences where inappropriate pictures delivered via the internet have had serious impact on the image of the company or institution concerned – the New Zealand Police perhaps being the most memorable example in recent months.
Now embattled managers have new technology tool at their disposal to protect their organisation and employees from illicit image abuse.
Launched in New Zealand at the Govis 2005 conference in Wellington during May, PixAlert Monitor is software program that scans, analyses and blurs images as they are displayed on computer screens if they contain illicit images. It’s real-time censorship – in much the same way as the identity of person on television is protected by blurring his or her image in the appropriate place.
Regardless of the source, when an improper image is viewed the software creates record in machine-specific audit log and an alert goes to the administrator’s console as soon as the PC in question connects to the corporate network.
When an alert is received, thumbnail representation of the image, plus the machine name, user-name, date-time, and the program used, can be viewed by the administrator who can then initiate appropriate action.
PixAlert Auditor adds another layer of security – it can run locally on suspect PC or be deployed remotely in order to scan all computers on network. It carries out full audit scan of the images stored on the network. Suspect images, which exceed pre-defined threshold, are presented in user-friendly gallery. The scan provides full report on its findings and the administrator can add any inappropriate images found to case file.
The Centre for Internet Studies of the University of Washington has reported that more than 60 percent of companies have disciplined staff and more than 30 percent have terminated employment for illicit image abuse – so clearly there is problem.
The advantages of PixAlert are obvious, particularly in regard to reducing the risk of civil or criminal litigation, and for generally ‘cleaning up’ the workplace. If you want to find out more, go to www.pixalert.com (PixAlert is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland) or talk to the New Zealand distributors eRisk Consulting.

Planning for disasters
Visual viruses are just one of gamut of online threats with potentially disastrous results that IT managers and senior managers must deal with. And while many corporations have pretty much got e-security sussed, on higher level it seems that large number still haven’t fully addressed the issue of business continuity.
Last month, communications applications company Avaya released the results of Galaxy Research survey which revealed that, of 200 IT managers in Australia and New Zealand, only 20 percent have tested plan for maintaining business continuity in the event of network outage, serious attack or natural disaster. Worse still, of those with no plan, more than half did not have plans to put one in place.
Another interesting statistic from the survey: out of the 200 companies, even though 38 percent had experienced some degree of IT systems downtime in the week prior to the survey, and 64 percent in the previous month, 29 percent had not even calculated how much that downtime cost them as business.
As Agile New Zealand’s managing director Tony Jayne said: “With businesses becoming ever more reliant on their IT infrastructure, the results of this study demonstrate that many are not putting in place adequate safeguards against any kind of IT failure.”
And Peter Thorne, Avaya’s regional director, network consulting services, adds that businesses generally see disaster recovery as priority, it’s just that few put realistic and workable plans in place.
“It’s not enough to say business continuity is important, you have to have plan in place, test it, communicate it and resource it.” He says disaster recovery plans should focus on the issues or failures that regularly affect businesses and their ability to service customers – not just on protection against disaster that might never happen.
So how’s your disaster recovery plan? Is it built on rock solid foundations or on slippery sands?

Glenn Baker is regular contributor to Management.
Email: [email protected]

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