Court workers curbed on net use

The Judicial Conference of the United States has cracked down on federal court employees' personal use of a nationwide court data communications network.

The "model appropriate use policy" approved Sept. 19 by the Judicial Conference bans court employees from using their office computers to access such file-sharing services as Napster and Gnutella. Employees are also forbidden to create, download, view, store, copy or transmit any sexually explicit materials or material related to gambling or illegal weapons.

The crackdown follows growing concern that use by the nation's 30,000 federal court system employees of a private network operated by the judiciary has increased far more than the business of the courts would warrant.

Monitoring revealed that some employees were using the system for purposes unrelated to work. The non-work use was causing congestion and delays in the network.

Use of court computers to access file-sharing services was a special security concern, Judge Edwin Nelson, chairman of the Judicial Conference Committee on Automation and Technology, said Sept. 19. Such services "create tunnels" through security firewalls that jeopardize the network's security, he said during a closed-circuit TV news conference from his office in Birmingham, Ala.

Adopting an appropriate use policy means that judiciary employees will be using their taxpayer-purchased equipment primarily to do judiciary business," Nelson said.

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