There’s a headline for you.  As I’ve been known to say, Homer Simpson could figure that one out. The abuses of the computers in offices today are staggering, and it makes me wonder when the work that actually gets done happens.

On coffee breaks, perhaps.

That is how turned around it is for many places, and many people. In the state of California, we are going on austerity programs in all the state and municipal offices, cutting back people to a 4 day work schedule, and many other changes in the quest for a balanced budget.

If the workers would simply do their jobs, there would be no way that any cutting back would be required, as the work would get done, and the state would move along. (No room for any Tea Parties here, as there are things no small business will do, and I’m sick to death of hearing of the successes of Republican administrations that did nothing but spend, and let the rich get richer on the backs of the working poor.)

Your average worker is not to blame. The fact that they have no sense of duty to their employers will not be debated here. The problem is the laziness or stupidity of the IT staff.

A properly set up firewall means access to needed sites which are germane to the workday, and no stops at Facebook, MySpace, porn sites, or any other things that might be part of a bored worker’s flight of fancy.

The story from InformationWeek tells that the majority of network traffic on corporate networks is out of the corporate domain, and onto the internet.

More than 70% of the traffic on corporate networks today comes from the Internet, and a sizable portion of it stems from employees’ use of Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook and BitTorrent for personal reasons.

That finding comes from a study released by next-generation firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks, based on firewall data captured in 723 organizations worldwide: 275 in North America, 207 in the Asia-Pacific region and 241 in Europe.

“This is based on real traffic in enterprise networks at a global level,” said Franklyn Jones, director of EMEA marketing for Palo Alto. Compared with results from similar studies, he said, “It seems as though users are taking control of the corporate network,” in the types of applications they’re using, accompanying security risks introduced and bandwidth consumed.

To provide more precise details, Palo Alto divided the personal applications it found into three categories: socializing, saying (email and IM) and sharing. Altogether, these applications account for about 25% of the traffic seen on corporate networks.

In terms of socializing, the most popular networking platforms (in terms of the percentage of businesses in which their use was seen) were Facebook (95%), Twitter (93%), LinkedIn (85%), MySpace (79%) and Facebook applications (76%).

While all social networking platforms have risks — as well as potential rewards — Palo Alto said that the prevalence of Facebook applications was cause for concern. “The more that enterprises download Facebook applications, the more likely they are to be attacked,” said Jones. Relatively speaking, Facebook and its applications are bandwidth hogs, consuming 500% more bandwidth than the other 47 social networking applications seen combined, without even factoring in Facebook mail and chat traffic.

Perhaps some better coding would not have Facebook singled out, and possibly removed from the corporate arena. (Not that it should be there, but it could go on in stealth mode.)

For email and IM, 81% of the applications found have the potential to allow inbound threats into the network, while 59% create the potential for data leakage.

The most popular email client was Gmail, found in 93% of enterprises, followed by Hotmail in 90%. In addition, 76% of businesses use the IM consolidation platform Meebo.

This is another place that should simply be shut down. Every IM client uses a port configuration different from others, so by simply blocking the ports, unauthorized IM usage is ended.

For applications aimed at sharing information — beyond email, IM and social networks — the Palo Alto study found that 83% of all related bandwidth can be traced to P2P applications. That’s consistent for most countries, except Germany, where P2P use in the workplace is relatively low, and Spain, where use of Megaupload, a browser-based file-sharing tool, is high. “I don’t know what’s going on in Spain, but there is some serious, serious file transferring going on,” said Jones.

The bottom line is that when it comes to personal applications on corporate networks, they’re not going away. “The challenge then is how IT should respond,” he said.

That last item I found amazing, in that I am wondering what is being shared, and why anyone with a brain would do it on a corporate network – then again, if they are getting away with everything else, why not a little file sharing?

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