News Column

Board of supervisors discuss county Internet policies

July 24, 2014

By Vershal Hogan, The Natchez Democrat, Miss.

July 25--NATCHEZ -- An Adams County supervisor said he wants to see tighter restrictions on how county employees can use work computers.

"The last thing I want is for somebody to come in a county office and see a county employee on Facebook, even on their phone," Supervisor Mike Lazarus said. "Those computers, we buy nice stuff to work with because we work with them."

Lazarus' comments followed a recommendation by County Information Technology Director Lance Bishop this week that the board of supervisors look at tightening its Internet use policy.

Bishop said the recommendation came in part because the state is starting to do audits of county IT systems, but also because the county computer system has had 10,000 instances of virus activity removed in the last three months, Bishop said.

"When a new virus comes out, it is just like a medial virus, and you have to get a new flu shot every year because the flu strain changes," he said.

"In the last probably three months, there have been a whole slew of new viruses introduced out into the world -- some really bad viruses."

While the 10,000-virus number has certainly created a little havoc for the county system, Bishop said the situation isn't quite as bad as it sounds at first blush.

"A lot of times, the way the (anti-virus) software counts it, it may clean a thousand incident files on a computer, but all of those incidents are linked to that one virus, but it still counts that virus 1,000 times," he said.

Some of the viruses that have infected the county system have actually come through state websites that county employees actually have to use, but others have snuck in through personal browsing, Bishop said.

The introduction of some of those viruses can be reduced by limiting what Websites can be browsed.

"It used to be that viruses traveled through email and disks, but now you click on a website that runs (the software framework) activeX, and it can introduce a virus and install it without you knowing it," he said.

"It is difficult to generically say 'We are going to block everything,' but we are going to start limiting and restricting some on our network. We have some public access PCs that have a little Internet access, and we are going to lock it down a little tighter."

Outright blocking Websites might not be possible for all county business -- the Adams County Sheriff's Office uses Facebook, for example -- but Lazarus said a policy that clearly limits browsing privileges is in order.

"Unless it pertains to county business, I think it ought to be off limits," he said. "Unless you are conducting county business, you shouldn't be on it. I don't want you on the clock looking for sales at Belk."


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Source: Natchez Democrat, The (MS)

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