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IT Security Vs. Censorship

In a memo distributed to employees, Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell called for all of Tribune's business units to yank the use of content filters. Now, I'm not sure anyone, myself included, would list content filters among their most favorite things. Yet, I'm not so sure Zell made a good move -- at least not for Tribune's IT security.
In a memo distributed to employees, Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell called for all of Tribune's business units to yank the use of content filters. Now, I'm not sure anyone, myself included, would list content filters among their most favorite things. Yet, I'm not so sure Zell made a good move -- at least not for Tribune's IT security.Here's the memo as posted at Poynter.org.


From: Talk to Sam Sent: Tue 1/22/2008 11:03 AM Subject: Censorship, the First Amendment and the Fourth Estate

Everyone, I learned on the first leg of our tour of Tribune's business units that some of them were filtering Internet content. I do not see how a member of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to protecting the First Amendment, can censor what its own employees and partners can see. I have instructed that all content filters be removed. You are now exposed to the dangers of YouTube and Facebook. Please use your best judgment.

Let's focus on what is important, and go for greatness. Sam

I certainly agree with the sentiment. And over-zealous use of content filters can hurt productivity and morale. No one appreciates not being able to take five minutes to shop for something they need while at work, or check their personal Web mail accounts -- especially as employers ask employees to work longer and longer days. While I've never used YouTube or Facebook to gather sources, I use instant messenger and Web boards, especially hacker boards, all of the time.

And in a newsroom, access to information should flow unfettered. How else are you to do your job?

Nonetheless, Web-based e-mail access can be an easy way to circumvent corporate e-mail policy, and lead to the leakage of sensitive company information. And the combination of malicious Web sites, social engineering, and profit motive, such as what happened this weekend, have become the attack method of choice.

One of the best defenses here is a layer of content filtering that can be swiftly updated to include malicious URLS on top of traditional network traffic analysis.

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