Barrow Council computers used to visit blocked ‘adult’ websites hundreds of times

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COUNCIL computers were used to access blocked “adult” websites more than once a day.

Barrow Council staff computers were used to visit websites blocked by a firewall more than 160 times over a 90-day period, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws.

All 161 visits to banned web addresses were classified as “adult” by the council’s filters.

Many websites have a domain used by the Bing search engine to filter out “explicit images and video content” – although the sites visited seem innocent.

The list of blocked websites visited includes addresses that are no longer accessible as well as searches for housing regulations and “short to medium hairstyles for older women”.

The advice was only available to provide data for the past 90 days.

Council staff would be able to use the internet during their lunch hour as long as usage is in accordance with policies.

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Websites can also be misclassified by stringent firewalls used to ensure authority network security.

A council spokeswoman said: “All councils are deploying extremely high levels of cybersecurity with parameters kept to the strictest possible level.

“Unfortunately, this means that many legitimate sites useful for work can be blocked, often because a small part of the site does not meet the strict requirements.

“Websites can also be misclassified – a process that happens automatically.

“Staff members may use the internet during their lunch hours as long as usage is in accordance with council policy.

“It can also cause legitimate sites to be blocked by the security settings in place.

“In summary, false positives are simply part of the balance between the high level of security that all local authorities need and accessibility.”

A document outlining the council’s information security policy said “all staff should be aware that use of email and access to the internet is controlled and monitored”.

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