Computer security programs are a great thing. There are unscrupulous people out there who would like nothing better than to access your computer or the information on it, or simply to mess it up because they can. With the right security in place, you can access the internet, do your banking online, download software or other files, play online games, do work for a company in another state without ever visiting their office, and much more – all without worrying about the viruses, worms, and other malware that is out there.
Like physical security, however, it comes with a price, and not just in the dollars spent on the software. If you keep your front door locked, you can’t tell a friend, “Just come on in, I’ll be in the kitchen working.” If you lock your car, you deter thieves, but you risk locking your keys in the car. (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve done that. Fortunately I’ve never done it with the engine running. But I did once block the gas pump at the gas station for nearly an hour because I couldn’t move my car until my husband got home from work and brought my extra keys.)
One of my tasks at work is to process requests made by our users to access websites that have been blocked by corporate security filters. I have an old laptop issued to me just for this purpose, to check out the sites people are trying to access. I don’t log onto the company network, so I bypass all corporate security and can access any internet site – but whatever malware the laptop may pick up can’t be transmitted back into the network.
Often the blocked sites are search portals that contain spyware or other malware. Unlike search engines such as google, they provide little if any useful information – but lots and lots of advertisements. I do my best to find the site the user really wanted, send a link to it, and explain why the blocked site was blocked. Other times the request is to download a file, and I either download it myself and send it to the user or pass the request along to our helpdesk.
Occasionally, though, I get a more unusual request. A week or two ago, a request came through to access a site tagged as “pornography.” I got out my laptop, accessed the site – and hoped nobody would walk by and see what was on my screen. I quickly closed the laptop, and tried to decide how to phrase my response to the user. Finally I settled for a bland “Are you requesting this for business purposes?”
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