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4G and Pr0n

The place where I work has an increasingly restrictive network policy. It went from almost anything goes – personal devices OK, and the honor system [1], to no personal devices on the network, monitoring software on every machine, full disk encryption [2], and now a net nanny which restricts innocuous web sites (climbing sites, art galleries – not that I surf the web a lot at work, but sometimes I want to check the weather or see how late something is open). They delete, without notification, emails with a zip file or other suspicious things attached, incoming or outgoing. Random security scans. It’s a pain. But…

I have this other device sitting on my desk. A small screen with several antennae. I bike to work with it on my back every day. For a modest monthly fee, I connect to a completely independent high speed network, no work resources used, and no restrictions at all. It’s what I’m typing this on now, in fact. On my lunch break, if anyone at work is reading.

So if the site I just googled shows the ‘restricted – you are being monitored’ notice, I just turn my chair 45 degrees and do it on this Star Trek communicator. Unmonitored.

So what exactly is the purpose of these policies? Is the policy not to access these sites over the work network, or not to access them at all when at work? Because the latter is a major fail. Unless they search me at the gate every day and confiscate my personal mobile and tablet. Because I see no way to enforce these policies short of a camera in every cubicle, or a GSM interception/decryption effort, or policies something like those of TS secure sites. No phones, no cameras, no personal electronic devices, glue up the USB ports, and walk through a metal detector in and out.

Actually the last thing might actually happen.

I’m not getting viruses from these sites on my personal equipment, so I don’t think network security is a valid concern.

I’d like to think that common sense would prevail and the workplace would say, just get your work done. Don’t screw things up. We realize we can’t stop you from doing whatever you want, so be an adult and use your best judgement.

Because short of what used to be called Tempest site security, they can’t stop it. 4G cellular networks and tablets are just making it pointless to have these sorts of restrictions.

One could make an analogy to 3D printing and BATF regulations. It was never difficult to make a weapon in your garage [3], but 3D printing is going to make it easy. That’s going to change things. Similarly, I could have always gotten around work network restrictions, but a tablet and a $10/month 4G subscription makes it dead simple. Plus ethically incontrovertible. It’s my tablet. It’s my network. It’s my time. I just happen to be sitting at work. And if that’s the only factor that makes a difference…

Yes, I know it does. But work can’t be a ratchet. Where I answer the phone on my days off, and take care of business at the beach, but I don’t get to look at the web on my lunch break, or make a blog post on my tablet.

So is the policy that I can’t look at pr0n at work? Not that I particularly want to, but that’s what it always comes down to. Pr0n. How about if I think about it? Or is it that I can’t use work resources to do so? And if I can use a tablet and 4G network that doesn’t belong to them to do so, what’s the distinction?

The distinction is increasingly meaningless, and the question is how will our corporate masters re-write the rules to maintain control of our minds.

How about this policy: Get your work done. Don’t disturb the neighbors, and don’t frighten the horses.

But no organization ever created by man is happy to let things go that way. So it will be the other.

But how?



[1] My first few years here, I used my personal laptop and cell phone because I didn’t want two. My next few years, I was happy to use theirs (and was requested to), and pocket the cash, because I trusted them not to monitor my email or phone calls – I didn’t think they had either the capability or interest. I’m back to using my own phone, tablet, and laptop, and keeping my personal communications completely off company devices and networks. Which is going to be interesting next time I travel. But then I won’t be on their networks…

[2] Which only works if you turn the computer off, and who does that any more? I shut my computer down about once a month. Probably less.

[3] I learned how to make zip guns in SE Hinton-like novels written in the 50s-60s.