Security Fears Lead to Net Lockdowns

    March 31, 2006

I run into more and more companies that are blocking RSS feeds, blogs, and other tools that ultimately increase worker knowledge and improve innovation and productivity.

While some companies worry that employees are spending time online at the expense of their work responsibilities, others are leaving these decisions in the hands of their IT departments who are more concerned about security threats.

A Wall Street Journal article lists everything from online email accounts to Skype as services that companies are blocking. The article quotes Bill Rocholl, global head of strategy and engineering for ABN Amro’s telecommunicatoins and network services:

Rocholl says that in making such decisions he weighs whether the resources he needs to study and disarm any potential risks from Skype or other free services would outweigh the time or money that might be saved by using them.

That’s a sound philosophy, though I wonder how Rocholl and his peers arrive at their conclusions. The awareness of the marketplace that one employee gains from reading feeds, or her ability to connect quickly with outside experts via instant messaging, may not register on Rocholl’s radar screen. No matter that the insights that employee gains could lead to the next big product, save a customer on the brink of defecting, or alert the company to a competitive threat.

It’s far too easy to deal with security threats by simply blocking access. I remember one enlightened IT security officer who told me that his job wasn’t to say “no,” but rather to find a way to say “yes” without compromising the company’s assets. Increasingly, the Internet is the primary channel for work. Shutting off access isn’t the answer to security concerns.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.