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News

Police computer misuse inevitable without protective monitoring

3ami : 08 January, 2010  (Technical Article)
According to 3ami, police and civilian workers are no different from the rest of the community in terms of their IT usage habits and a protective monitoring system is a requirement to prevent abuse and misuse of resources
Reports that there have been more than 50 cases of misuse of the force's computers in the 13th largest police force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the last five years comes as no surprise to Tim Ellsmore, Managing Director of 3ami, a Manchester-based company that produces audit, compliance and control technology.

'With more than 239,000 police officers employed in the UK, as well as larger numbers of civilian staff, it's inevitable that human nature will rear its ugly head,' said Ellsmore. 'Our 3ami MAS software helps police management enforce the laws of their digital network and prevent this type of situation from causing embarrassment and the suspension or dismissal of otherwise good members of staff.'

Ellsmore added, 'I realise how hard police forces are working, and have been working, to make true data accountability a reality in the UK. I have seen their dedication in my many interactions with police forces looking to trial and purchase our Monitoring and Audit Systems (MAS). Police forces are beginning to realise the simple truth that you can't enforce the laws of a digital workplace without being able to police and protect that workplace--and that's where comprehensive computer activity monitoring and auditing comes in.'

Ellsmore said the problem with those forces that do not fully monitor the activity on their computer networks is that they have no real way of knowing whether officers or civilian staff are misusing the data they have access to, forwarding that data to third parties or even using the network to conduct personal business when they should be working. There are also the issues of viruses and malware, as well as hacker attacks, attempting to subjugate data on the police computer network, for usually criminal means.

Ellsmore went on to explain that 3ami recently conducted a survey into senior police officers' concerns about data security at UK police forces. Ellsmore noted that the security required goes beyond controlling who has access to what data and at what times.

3ami's survey - conducted among senior police officers last year - found that all respondents were in favour of audit and controls on police computer resources. Ninety-six percent said they believed abuse and/or misuse of UK police systems occurred 'frequently.'

According to Ellsmore, the survey also found that inadequate staffing and the lack of an effective digital audit trail were the two biggest barriers to investigating police officers or staff members suspected of illegal or inappropriate computer activity. Ellsmore pointed out that both of these barriers could be mitigated--or removed altogether--with the effective use of a comprehensive computer activity monitoring and auditing package, such as 3ami.

'The Freedom of Information Act data released to the press this month suggests that more than 400 UK police officers and civilian staff have been dismissed or disciplined on the issue of computer misuse in the last five years,' he said. 'It's investigations like this that highlight the fact that installing effective audit and control software is now a no-brainer in financial terms, not to mention responsibility and accountability.'


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