Filter catches Interior employees visiting gambling, sex sites

Interior Department employees are wasting thousands of hours a week and potentially more than $2 million a year visiting auction, sex and gambling Web sites, according to an inspector general report.

As a result, all Interior bureaus and offices will begin monitoring and blocking inappropriate Web activity in real time with a new filtering system on Nov. 1, according to the department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The IG report, which was sent to the Interior secretary Sept. 18, attributes the Internet abuse to a lack of consistency in departmentwide Internet use controls.

“Our review of one week of computer use logs revealed over 4,732 log entries relating to sexually explicit and gambling Web sites that had been accessed by department computers,” the IG report states.

The analysis did not include a review of e-mail or other means of transferring prohibited material.

Over a period of one year, online shopping and games “could account for 104,221 hours of lost productivity,” the IG wrote.

Interior Deputy CIO Ed Meagher said his office is fully aware of the problem because it had collected the Internet use logs that the IG reviewed for the report. The office gathered Internet behavior data through the month of June as part of its evaluation of new Web-filtering software, Meagher said.

“We turned this info over to the IG as a matter of course,” he said.

In the report, the IG recommended that Interior officials create a uniform, departmentwide policy to address inappropriate or prohibited Internet use, including properly configured software and education programs.

Meagher said the department has selected a hardware/software solution, called 8e6, that will soon start monitoring and blocking Internet abuse departmentwide.

The IG report bears the title, “Excessive Indulgences” and contains images of a woman’s navel and a newspaper clipping with the headline “Child porn nets 8-year sentence.”

Before the IG report’s release, Interior’s bureaus either resisted or showed indifference toward participation in the development of criteria for blocking inappropriate sites, according to the report.

Meagher, who refers to the document as “the bellybutton report,” said there was fairly widespread belief among the bureaus that Internet abuse was not a significant problem.

“Absent hard data, the CIOs mostly felt that this wasn’t a big deal and didn’t merit spending limited resources,” he said.

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