Public internet access: who is responsible?

In the first of a series of articles looking at business issues faced by IT managers, we look at the steps companies need to take if they open their networks up to visitors.

The fine was apparently a result of a civil case, although some lawyers question the validity of the judgement against the unidentified pub company. However, concerns remain that copyright legislation, in particular, might cause companies to be challenged in the courts for their customers' actions.

"The fact is, that there is insufficient case law behind this," warns Jon Collins, managing director at IT analysts Freeform Dynamics. "The fact is that we are doing things now, that we were not doing 10 years ago the laws are completely inappropriate for the way people work now."

None the less, there is a strong case for limiting who can use the company network, and how they can use it.

Some IT departments might be tempted to simply turn off all wireless access points and there are some businesses where this might be an appropriate response.

For others, it might be cost effective to hand over management of public WLAN access to a commercial hotspot provider, although this might not be the most user-friendly solution, especially where a business is looking to provide access to visitors or contractors, rather than, say, guests in a hotel or restaurant.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground between these options, and that is to combine the latest generation of wireless access points, with a robust policy for guest internet usage.

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