Why Your Company Must Have A Computer Use Policy

Craig Pollack | Feb 13, 2018

Outlining a comprehensive computer use policy is critical to defining your organization’s rules of engagement in today’s technologically sophisticated workplace. Without a clearly defined policy, you’re essentially allowing the animals to run the zoo. This is a particularly concerning thought considering that cybersecurity concerns, including misuse of computer equipment by employees, reached record-level highs in 2017. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports that 3,158,441 records have already been exposed in 2018 as of January 31.

When most people consider cyber threats, they think of external threats and don’t consider insider threats. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “the nature of insider threats can be categorized into malicious, accidental, or negligent, and account for a combined 39% of all data breaches.”

By developing and implementing a company-wide computer use policy, misuse can be more easily identified and addressed before a seemingly insignificant issue snowballs into a more serious problem. An additional benefit of establishing one of these policies for your organization is that it can help to increase your organization’s productivity.

You can create a computer use policy on your own or have your IT services company do it for you. If you don’t already have one, here are six of reasons (and benefits) for why you should implement an effective computer use policy at your organization.

1. It Offers Legal Protection for Your Company

Effective computer use policies are all-encompassing: They should address everything from the download or email distribution of pornographic content to how network integrity can be weakened by manipulating configurations and settings. This type of policy can help to protect your company from harassment lawsuits, confidential information being lost through network vulnerabilities and other similar issues. An effective computer use policy places the responsibility for data security into the hands of the user.

Ultimately, a defined policy sets the precedence for what your organization is responsible for versus what the users are responsible for regarding security. This is especially important when you consider how much there is to worry about in terms of viruses, malware, ransomware and hacks — particularly if your organization enables users to use remote access and personal devices. A good policy helps users avoid making choices that can potentially place your organization in a legally- or publicity-damaging situation.

2. It Helps Your Company Uphold a Professional Environment

Defining appropriate or inappropriate uses of company machines is a necessary step for any business. By highlighting appropriate uses, even if it means allowing occasional personal use of machines in a safe way that doesn’t interfere with work activities, your organization shows its commitment to a professional, serious work environment. By doing this, you’re also outlining what is considered inappropriate use, such as using company machines in a personal way that can potentially create system vulnerabilities.

3. It Helps Users Understand Privacy and Company Ownership Rights

One way companies choose to proactively combat potential security issues is by monitoring and tracking users’ computer activities. It is critical to clearly explicate and outline how far the computer use policy extends and which content is technically “owned” by the computer or the user. Users are less likely to access, create, or distribute inappropriate materials when all materials on the network are considered the property of the organization.

4. It Informs Users That Keeping Content on Machines Secure is Their Responsibility

All users need to understand that it’s their responsibility to:

  • Protect sensitive data from breaches;
  • Keep licensed software from being copied or shared; and
  • Not re-configure workstations so as to disrupt network effectiveness and consistency.

An effective computer use policy outlines the types of activities that can compromise network security. Furthermore, it informs users that if reasonable precautions are not taken to safeguard passwords and sensitive trade information, they can personally be held liable.

There are different ways to help employees become familiar with cybersecurity best practices, including the use of a robust cybersecurity awareness training program. An experienced IT managed services company, like FPA, can help you to develop and implement a managed user security awareness training program for your business.

5. It Sets Expectations for Internet & Email Use That Minimize Risk and Loss

Despite the protections provided by a firewall or server-based application, no system is perfect. A well-defined internet and email use policy can help to educate users about their responsibilities in the event that they access potentially harmful material.

While the most common forms of employee computer misuse include reading the news, making online purchases, and downloading music, some activities can have serious repercussions on a business. Some actions can result in the theft of sensitive data and loss of business, as well as negative public relations. Furthermore, companies lose thousands of dollars each year, per employee, in lost production due to web surfing — an inefficiency that can be minimized with a detailed use policy.

6. It Enforces Computer Policy Agreements Between Users and Your Organization

Creating a potentially binding computer use policy agreement between your staff and organization helps to validate the legitimacy of the policy. Furthermore, it helps users to understand that policy violations are serious and that not following those guidelines may result in potentially severe consequences, including being terminated. To make the contract legitimate, management needs to continuously enforce the policy to ensure it doesn’t become a meaningless piece of paper.

Those are my six great reasons for why your organization should have a computer use policy in place. I hope that you’ve found these to be helpful and informative. If you have any questions or are interested in getting feedback on your organization’s policy, please feel free to send an email or give me a call.

How do you think this information has been helpful? Do you have any additional computer use policy recommendations? If so, share them in the comments box below or shoot me an email if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.

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Author

Craig Pollack

Craig Pollack

Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology as efficiently and effectively as possible. With over 25 years of experience building the preeminent IT Service Provider in the Southern California area, Craig is one of the area’s leading authorities on how small to mid-sized businesses can best secure and leverage their technology to achieve their business objectives.

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