Racy IG report slows Interior servers

Inspector General reports on federal technology don't generally stray into the fields of pornography and online gambling. But a widely publicized Interior Department IG report detailing improper Internet use and its consequences has done so, apparently prompting an online stampede and slowing the agency's servers.

The IG report, 'Excessive Indulgences: Personal Use of the Internet at the Department of the Interior,' describes in detail how improper system use has not only been costly, but created other problems such as:

  • Possible compromise of system integrity;
  • Increased legal liability risk from the creation of a hostile work environment, which could lead to sexual harassment charges; and
  • Potential public embarrassment.

The report itself already appears to have distracted users of the Interior's Web site, including federal employees, from their work today.

When a site user seeking a copy of the report inquired about system delays, OIG webmaster Susan Del Vecchio replied by e-mail, 'The Internet report is popular so that may be one reason you're having difficulties. The Internet abuse report is generating a lot of interest, and I think our site may be having some difficulties as a result. I know they're working on the issue.'

The report described how computer users at Interior continue to access sexually explicit and gambling Web sites despite clear bans on the practice in federal regulations and department policy. The employees also haunt Internet auction sites, according to the report.

Auditors estimated that the use of Internet auction and online gambling sites cost the department some 104,221 hours of lost productivity each year. Four bureaus within the department have adopted programs to monitor and block the activity, the report said, but efforts to establish a departmentwide policy have stalled because of other bureaus' resistance.

The small number of disciplinary actions related to this problem suggests that 'computer users inappropriately access the Internet without fear of consequence,' according to the report.

The investigators reported that some Web site monitoring tools and blocking software already installed at Interior have failed to stem the problem.

'Based on our findings, we believe that the department and the bureaus would do well not to be lulled into a false sense of security that these filtering tools provide a significant level of protection,' the report said.

The report recommended that department and bureau officials develop a coordinated policy to prevent the abuses, comprised of both technology adoption and educational projects. The report also called for predictable and persistent punishment of violators.


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