How to Prevent Misuse of the Internet in the Workplace

how to prevent misuse of the internet in the workplace

The struggle to prevent misuse of the internet in the workplace has been a long one. From social media and chatrooms to video games and video streaming, employees face limitless temptations and risks when they log on to their work computer and hop online.

Despite the internet’s ability to streamline communication and work projects, along with its general ease of use and convenience, the internet can also be a major detriment to any company’s productivity and security levels.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that 30 to 40 percent of employee internet activity is non-work related. This high level of personal internet usage at work is costing US businesses $63 billion in lost productivity each year, according to Websense Inc.

Want to prevent employees from misusing the internet? Start monitoring and controlling internet use with a FREE trial of CurrentWare’s internet monitoring and web filtering software.

The most common ways in which employees misuse the internet in the workplace include:

  • Social media
  • Video streaming
  • Chat rooms
  • Video games
  • Personal emails
  • Online shopping
  • Side businesses

But internet misuse in the workplace isn’t only costing billions in lost productivity. When an employee browses freely across the internet, they can unknowingly visit one of the thousands of malicious websites that are being registered daily. These cybersecurity threats can be just as devastating for a company as any amount of lost productivity.

The most common internet-based cyber security threats in the workplace include:

  • Phishing scams
  • Malware-infested websites
  • Social engineering

Based on this research, companies can expect their employees to be spending 16 out of the 40 total hours of an average workweek doing anything aside from working. And with the continuous innovation of the near-infinite online distractions and cybersecurity threats, there is no reason to foresee a reduction in these already alarming numbers.

Not only does reckless internet usage leave your company susceptible to lost productivity and increased security risks, but your network performance will also be diminished as employees browse bandwidth-hogging websites such as YouTube. When your network is slowed down with network latency issues, your entire staff of employees will be affected by excruciatingly slow network speeds, causing projects to take longer than they should.

Though a company may not be able to prevent illegal sport streaming websites from providing high-quality services or stop cybercriminals from executing sophisticated cyberattacks, every company and management team can implement internet usage policies to help minimize the threats to their productivity and security.

Controlling internet access at work can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Let’s take a look at some of the policies and practices that companies should adopt in order to prevent the misuse of the internet in the workplace. 

Table of Contents

Define What Misuse of the Internet in the Workplace Is

A businessman hands a piece of paper and a pen to their employee to sign

Defining what websites and applications are acceptable for usage in your workplace will be a great first step in establishing your company’s internet usage policy. Doing so will also guide you towards finding the right technology and tools that you may need to implement as a means to prevent misuse of the internet in the workplace.

As a manager, you understand the importance of clear authoritative communication with your employees. You have rules for when work starts and ends, how long the lunch break should be, and how to interact with your customers. When your employees defy these rules, they know the consequences.

To prevent unnecessary and excessive internet usage at work, a similar set of rules should be established for how their time is spent while using a computer and browsing the web. And depending on the industry or field of work, the definition of internet misuse will vary. 

For example, if you own a marketing agency then it will likely be acceptable for employees to be browsing social media and other marketing-related websites. But say you own an auto body shop where your front desk clerk uses the computer primarily to log customer service requests, you may want to prevent the employee from accessing their Facebook account. 

Create an Acceptable Use of the Internet Policy

Free Sample Template:
Employee Internet Usage Policy

Download this FREE acceptable use policy, customize it,
and distribute it to your employees to set a precedent for the acceptable use of the internet in the workplace.

Once you’ve defined internet misuse and clearly communicated the consequences, you may want to lay grounds for what is considered to be acceptable internet usage in the workplace.

You may further decide to have employees sign an internet usage policy contract to ensure that they are aware of what is acceptable and what is not, and so that they understand that there will be indisputable consequences if they do happen to misuse the internet and breach the contract.

An acceptable use of the internet policy is essential for outlining your company’s standards for employee internet use.

  • Can employees use the workplace internet for personal tasks such as shopping, banking, and sending messages?
  • What cybersecurity responsibilities do employees have when using the internet in the workplace?
  • How much “cyberloafing” is acceptable? Are brief breaks okay so long as it’s not excessive and deadlines are being met?

Given that employees can be spending over 8+ hours per day at their desks and on their computers, it can be only fair to allow some of that time to be spent on things outside of their daily work tasks. After all, we’re all humans, right? Humans connected to a hyper-complex system of computers with processing capabilities far superior to our own.

Considering that we humans have a high level of curiosity and a desire for social connectivity, it would likely be best for the mental health and overall productivity of your company to allow workers to spend some free time on the internet. Otherwise, you may end up creating a reputation for yourself as a cyber dictator and could start to see some resignation letters roll in as employees seek a more lenient work environment.

With most companies having time slots for employees to take their breaks, those periods throughout the day could be the designated times to allow personal internet usage at work.

For example, you may choose to allow your employees to access their social media accounts during the lunch hour. Or to allow them to catch up on last night’s sports action during their 15 minute coffee break in the morning. Doing so will create a more positive and productive work environment, and will help to alleviate some of the innate desires and curiosity your employees hold.

However, you should never permit users to roam the internet completely free while on their work computers. Considering the high volume of malicious websites and the limitless threats to network security online, not implementing web filtering software risks being compromised by some sort of malware attack or other network security breach. These incidents can end up costing your company large amounts of money as you repair or replace affected hardware and work to save your company’s reputation in the case of a data breach.

If employees want to watch videos during their break, make sure they are doing so on trusted and secured websites such as YouTube instead of other lesser-known and less secured platforms. Illegal streaming websites are notorious for malicious advertisements (malvertisement). 

An acceptable use policy helps define how employees are expected to operate within this gray area. You may ultimately decide that no amount of personal use is acceptable; so long as the policy clearly outlines this expectation you will have a much-needed framework for any corrective actions that may be needed to enforce this expectation.

Train Employees on the Dangers of Misusing the Internet

Man giving a presentation

Understanding that the methods in which cybercriminals are able to execute their cyber-attacks are ever-changing as the technology continues to advance, it will be highly important for your employees to be able to identify risks and prevent attacks.

Firstly, it will be important to identify the vulnerable and valuable assets that your company holds and why these could be the target of a cyber attack. 

For example, if you work in the healthcare industry, then the personal data of your patients would be a high-value target and should be heavily protected. If employees are negligent when handling these types of high-value digital assets, such as the medical histories of patients, then your company is at a greater risk of attack and could face costly consequences.

One of the most common yet effective types of cyberattacks is phishing. Phishing involves fraudulent communication, often through email, disguised as a reputable source in order to obtain passwords and gain access to a network. A phishing email could be sent to your employee, luring them in to enter their password or other forms of confidential information. If successful, the cybercriminals executing the phishing scam can use this information to compromise your company network and steal highly valuable data. Once stolen, it will be very difficult if not impossible to be retrieved. The attackers can then use their cybercriminal network to exploit and sell this data for a profit, leaving your company to deal with the legal and financial repercussions. 

Another way in which hackers can steal data is through malware attacks. Malware, short for malicious software, often refers to various types of viruses, worms, trojans and other harmful computer programs used to access personal information and steal data from a network. 

A common way for malware to be downloaded onto work computers occurs when employees negligently download software from the internet without proper screening. Malware can be disguised as free-to-use software and, once downloaded, can infect the computer and begin to steal valuable company data.

Malware can also be unsuspectingly downloaded by employees who access peer-to-peer file sharing services. Illegally downloading media files such as music and movies is a high risk activity as these files can contain malware.

Providing your employees with the proper training to become knowledgeable about the various cyber security risks within your company will be an important step in preventing an attack from occurring. When an employee spots a phishy email or an unsafe website, they will be far less likely to fall victim.

Reinforce Policies and Take Corrective Actions

After going to great lengths to provide your employees with the information and resources they need to be able to productively and securely use the internet while working, reinforcing your policies and providing corrective actions to those who misuse the internet will be fundamental to developing solid internet practices within your company.

Enforcing acceptable internet usage in the workplace will sometimes require you to take disciplinary actions with employees who breach their internet usage contract. For employees who are actively using the internet in a reckless manner (creating a hostile work environment, regularly visiting dangerous websites, distracting their coworkers, etc), you may eventually need to have them removed from the company entirely.

Ensuring that all employees are working productively and securely while on the internet will greatly improve the overall health of your company. Unfortunately, employees often need to see examples of the consequences before they fully grasp the serious nature of misusing the internet in the workplace. Be sure to remain fair and consistent as you enforce your internet usage policies.

Control Internet Access at Work

Even with the solid foundation of your internet usage policy and the training that you provide to your employees, implementing software to control internet access at work is the ultimate tool to ensure the internet is being used productively and securely.

Internet Monitoring Software

Thanks for checking out the latest CurrentWare how-to video. Today we will cover How to Monitor Internet Use. 

If you like this or other videos we’ve produced, hit the subscribe button below. Stay tuned to the end to learn how to get a free trial of the software I demo today.

In a previous video, we covered some of the benefits of monitoring employees including for productivity reasons, to avoid legal liability and to prevent cyber threats. In this video, we’re going to cover how to monitor internet use and some of the industry best practices.

We’re going to be using BrowseReporter, CurrentWare’s computer monitoring solution. 

This solution requires an agent to be installed on your employee’s computers. Once installed, their computer activity is streamed to your server where you can run reports and view their activity. 

To start off, we recommend you determine which browsers are being used by your company. This is a good time to look at your company’s policy and determine which default browser you recommend. You can also find out which browsers your employees are using with BrowseReporter’s application monitoring report. In addition, you can actually block the installation or use of other browsers by using CurrentWare’s BrowseControl solution.

The next step is to figure out what time period you want to look at. You can pull reports on demand at any desired time period including last 7 days, last month or a custom date range. 

For this example, we’ll look at yesterday’s results. Now you can actually schedule these reports to email automatically to the appropriate person on your team, but in this case we are going to use on-demand reports, pulling the reports up as needed.

So let’s jump in and start with a snapshot report on employee internet use based on productivity.

With the CurrentWare Employee Productivity Report, you get a simple snapshot into how much time was spent on websites that are deemed to be productive. The definition of productive is based on our proprietary system of ranking each website based on whether it’s productive, unproductive or neutral. You can even change the categorization of websites based on your business needs to make this report more helpful.

Looking at the CurrentWare console, we’ll pull up the employee productivity report for employee Conan. We will look at yesterday’s performance and see that Conan was only 24% productive. The majority of his time was spent on Social Media and Sports websites vs. work related tasks.

The next way to assess productivity is to see which sites someone has spent the most time on. For example, if you know the employee is on the sales team and should be spending the majority of time on, you can investigate and see which are the main sites they are really browsing. 

By pulling up the Top Domains visited report, we can see exactly which domains Conan browsed yesterday by Active Time and Total Time. Similar to the previous report, we see the majority of his time was spent on Facebook and ESPN.

One of the most interesting features of CurrentWare’s internet monitoring reports are related to tracking the actual activity of a user and not letting the data get convoluted with different tabs or windows that a user has open.

BrowseReporter has 3 different ways to determine how the internet and applications are being used:

  • Active Time
  • Total Time
  • Idle Time

Active Time measures how long the current window is in focus, giving you the most accurate report on where users spent their time on websites and applications. BrowseReporter has the capability to determine which website tab was active at the top of the screen so you get extremely accurate reporting on where they spent their time. 

Total Time measures the total duration the window is opened for, from the start time until the end time regardless of whether the window was in focus or not. Not every user acts the same. Some users switch between two monitors. Some like to stream content in the background. No matter what their behaviors are, BrowseReporter can track the total time they spent on the websites whether or not they were focused on the window.

Finally, Idle time measures how long the user is away from his computer after the mouse and keyboard stopped moving. By default, idle time is tracked after 20 minutes of inactivity. Time tracking should be fair. If your users are not in front of their computers, BrowseReporter will separate the time tracked into idle time so you can filter it out if you need to during report generation.

Now if you want to investigate the exact website pages that the employee visited, you can use the Sites visited report. This report breaks down each url in detail along with how much time was spent on each page.

This lets you distill down if they were looking at pages related to work on those domains or if it was something more personal. This is specifically helpful for domains like which for certain industries or roles can provide value, but knowing which exact video was watched can help you understand the use case by the employee.

Finally, we recommend investigating productivity by looking at employee keyword searches.

This report allows you to Review the exact search keywords used by employees and Identify employees that are distracted or struggling with specific topics. In addition, you can also discover employee sentiment and monitor for high-risk search terms such as attempts to find adult-oriented websites.

In this keywords searched example we can see employee Greg has searched lots of personal items into google over the past working days. This helps you understand where they may be spending their time and what they are  browsing in google.

That’s it for this video on how to monitor internet use with BrowseReporter. If you have any thoughts on the reports or suggestions we’ve covered in this video, feel free to comment below.. 

If you’d like to give BrowseReporter or any of the other CurrentWare Solutions a try, please check our free trial at or get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help!

CurrentWare’s BrowseReporter software will monitor the computer and internet usage of employees to help you determine how they are spending their time while working online. With this software in place, you can easily identify personal and non-work-related internet usage. If an employee goes on social media, you will clearly see this logged in that user’s activity history right down to the date, the time, and the website visited.

BrowseReporter will also provide granular insight into the applications your employees are using while on company time, helping you to isolate those employees that are abusing or disregarding your internet usage policy.

Website Blocking Software

Need to restrict internet access in your network? In this tutorial you will learn how to block websites using a free trial of BrowseControl, CurrentWare’s web content filtering software.

With BrowseControl you can…

Block websites based on URL, category, domain, or IP address

Schedule unique internet restrictions throughout the day 

Assign custom policies for each group of computers or users,

and enforce internet usage policies, even when devices leave the network

There are 3 ways to block employee internet access with BrowseControl

1) Block access to specific websites with the Block List

2) Restrict internet access to only certain sites with the Allow List 

3) Using the Category Filtering feature you can block access to content categories such as Porn, Virus Infected, or Social Media 

For complete control over internet and application use in your network, you can combine BrowseControl with BrowseReporter, CurrentWare’s internet monitoring software.

All right, let’s get started.

To begin, sign up for a free trial of BrowseControl at After filling out the form you will be provided with the files you need to get started with BrowseControl.

To install BrowseControl, run CurrentWare.exe on the administrator’s computer and follow the installation instructions; this will install the CurrentWare Console and Server. 

After that, deploy the CurrentWare Client Setup file (cwClientSetup.exe) on all of the computers you would like to control. 

From there you can import your Active Directory organizational units or manually create your desired policy groups.

For full installation instructions, please visit our knowledge base at 

Now that you have BrowseControl installed, I’ll show you how to block specific websites based on their URL, domain, or IP address with the URL Filter.

This feature can be used to block your employees from accessing distracting websites like Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram.

First, decide whether you want to control internet access based on users or computers and select the desired mode.

Next, click on the URL Filter then select “Blocked List”

From the drop-down menu, select the group of computers or users that you want to restrict

Enter the URL, domain, or IP address of the websites you want to block to the master URL list, then press the Enter key or click “Add”. 

BrowseControl will apply a wildcard to the URL, ensuring that any paths within the domain will be blocked as well.

In the master URL list, select the websites you want to block for the chosen group, then click “Add to Blocked List”.

If you would like to add the selected websites to the block list of multiple groups, you can press the drop-down arrow and select “add to multiple groups”, select the desired groups, then click “add to blocked list”

If you have a large number of websites you would like to block, you can also use the import feature to import an existing list.

Finally, click “Apply to Clients”.

That’s it! You have now blocked your employees, students, or patrons from accessing those specific websites. 

Next, I’ll show you how to restrict internet access to only certain sites.

This feature is ideal if you want to prevent your employees, students, or patrons from accessing websites that are not explicitly allowed by your organization.

The process is identical to how you would block a website, except this time you will set the internet to “off” and add the websites you would like to allow to the Allow List.

With this method, your users will only be able to access the exact websites that have been approved by your company.

Here are the full instructions.

First, decide whether you want to control internet access based on users or computers and select the desired mode.

Next, click on the URL Filter, then ensure that “Allowed List” is selected

From the drop-down menu, select the group of computers or users that you want to restrict

Next, set the internet to “Off”. This will ensure that only the websites that are added to the allowed list can be accessed.

Enter the URL, domain, or IP address of the website you want to allow to the master URL list, then press the Enter key or click “Add”. BrowseControl will apply a wildcard to the URL, ensuring that any paths within the domain will be allowed as well.

In the master URL list, select the websites you want to allow for the chosen group, then click “Add to Allowed List”

If you would like to add the selected websites to the Allowed list of multiple groups, you can press the drop-down arrow and select “Add to Multiple Groups”, select the desired groups, then click “Add to Allowed list”

If you have a large number of websites you would like to allow, you can also use the import feature to import an existing list.

Finally, click “Apply to Clients”.

Next, I’ll show you how to block websites based on content categories such as Porn, Virus Infected, and Social Media 

With BrowseControl’s category filtering feature you can block billions of websites across over 100 URL categories. More than 10,000 new domains are added each day, making it simple to restrict internet access even as new sites emerge. 

Here’s how:

First, decide whether you want to control internet access based on users or computers, then select the desired mode.

Next, click on “Category Filtering”

From the drop-down menu, select the group of computers or users that you want to restrict

Select the web content categories you would like to block, then click “Add to Blocked List”

Finally, click “Apply to Clients”.

That’s it! 

The Allow List can also be used in tandem with the Category Filtering feature to allow websites that would otherwise be blocked based on their content category. 

For example, you could use the Category Filtering feature to block Social Media while still allowing access to LinkedIn.

Now that you’ve seen the 3 key ways you can block a website with BrowseControl, I’d like to show you how to restrict internet access at certain times.

With BrowseControl’s Internet Scheduler you can schedule custom block or allow lists throughout the day. 

This feature will bring some flexibility to your internet restriction policies; in this example, we will allow our employees to browse the internet during lunchtime.

Here’s how to use the internet scheduler

First, decide whether you want to control internet access based on users or computers and select the desired mode.

Next, click on “internet scheduler”

From the drop-down menu, select the group of computers or users that you want to restrict

Next, click “New Schedule”

Set the start and end time of the schedule. Then, select the schedule type.

Internet On will allow internet access to all websites that are not on the URL Block List

Custom allowed list will only allow access to specific websites.

Custom blocked list will block access to a specific list of websites and allow access to the rest of the internet.

Custom Category blocked list will block specific categories and allow access to the rest of the internet.

Next, set your desired schedule frequency.

Daily will enable the schedule every day during the specified time period.

Weekly will enable the schedule only on specific days of the week.

Monthly will enable the schedule only on specific months.

Next, click “Add Schedule”.

If you selected one of the custom block or allow list options, you can click the link provided under the “schedule type” column to set the websites or categories that you would like on the list.

And finally, click “Enable Scheduler” if it is not already enabled

That’s it for today. If you’re ready to start blocking websites you can get a free trial of BrowseControl at 

If you have any questions during your evaluation our support team is available to help you over a phone call, live chat, or email.

See you next time!

CurrentWare’s BrowseControl is an easy-to-use web content filtering software that allows employers to restrict internet access. Companies can quickly use BrowseControl to block employees from accessing undesirable websites such as pornography, social media, video streaming and any other websites.

With BrowseControl installed on employee computers, companies are assured that their internet usage policies are being effectively enforced. This will help to improve overall productivity and will increase network security.


Controlling internet access at work is essential for preventing employees from misusing the internet. With a careful balance of internet use policies, monitoring employee internet use, and restricting internet access, you can prevent high-risk and inappropriate websites from being visited in the workplace. 

Sai Kit Chu
Sai Kit Chu
Sai Kit Chu is a Product Manager with CurrentWare. He enjoys helping businesses improve their employee productivity & data loss prevention efforts through the deployment of the CurrentWare solutions.
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