Determining employee Web-use behavior with Smart Engine analytics

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Determining employee Web-use behavior with Smart Engine analytics

I previously discussed that employee Web use has much to do with human behavior in the workplace, and the management of it is not just an IT issue. All stakeholders and areas of the company can help manage employee Web use effectively. With IT investing time in researching and implementing the most suitable Web filtering and monitoring solution for the organization, collaborators in the company, such as senior managers, HR, and department managers, can get the right information in the right format. Ideally the solution would include a reporting engine or Smart Engine making it possible for collaborators to get a true picture of employee behavior. Here I’ll discuss the features of a Smart Engine and its importance in deriving human behavior from Web-use data.

First of all, what is a Smart Engine? A Smart Engine is a powerful reporting engine that helps companies make informed, data-driven decisions and take action on issues concerning the proper use of their network resources. It provides direct, easy, and fast access to data, and low-latency, real-time analytics. With its elaborate, distributed system, it is highly scalable and able to handle petabytes of data. A Smart Engine is built for speed and provides a scalable solution that is optimized for analytics retrieval.

Smart Engine analytics provide the information for reporting–charts and reports–to present accurate and up-to-date Web activity. The Smart Engine utilizes algorithms that perform functions such as determining real Web browsing activity, user names, and time online from Web traffic, and categorizing URLs into logical groups based on content. Without the Smart Engine and its analytics, the reporting components could not provide the adequate information that a company needs to manage employee Web use. The Smart Engine makes technical data usable and manager-ready. Examples of its algorithms are discussed below.

The most important algorithm is one that distinguishes between real Web browsing activity from user clicks (or visits) and background Web activity (unsolicited traffic or hits) by identifying the content of each URL. True visits are actual user clicks that do not include multimedia URLs, such as images, audio Web pages, advertisements, or Web pages that were requested as part of a visit, that is, unsolicited. The differentiation between Web traffic visits and hits is of high importance for companies that want to manage the human factor. Companies can get a true, meaningful picture of the level and type of Web activity occurring in their network.

When Web filtering and reporting products do not include user names in Web traffic records, user Web activity is lost and unaccounted for. The company may not even know that this is occurring. Another algorithm performed by the Smart Engine is a user name caching algorithm that uses the cache user name if available, versus the IP address, allowing you to capture all activity of the user and get more detailed data in reporting.

When users are online, they could be reading a Web page, performing another task in a different application with the browser open, or possibly away from the computer entirely with the browser open. A time online algorithm uses a highly accurate priority method for calculating users’ time online. Managers and IT administrators can quickly see which users, categories, sites, and so on had the most volume of activity and address any potential issues, such as productivity loss, bandwidth slowdowns, and policy noncompliance.

Another algorithm that produces Smart Engine analytics is a categorization algorithm. This algorithm is designed to report on all Web activity. With the extensive content categories available in the Web filtering and monitoring tool, this algorithm categorizes the organization’s Web activity so that managers can analyze their employees’ Web usage. Proper URL categorization detects and identifies a broad range and a high percentage of total Web activity.

The Smart Engine feeds data to the reporting components of a Web monitoring and filtering tool and provides analytics for determining human behavior. You will not get this type of data directly from any firewall on the market today. The raw data itself is only information about machine/network requests. It is not about human activity, but about the machine’s response to a human request to get or push information. The Smart Engine enables companies to quickly create simple Web browsing reports and analyze current or historical Web-use data from human behavior. This human behavior data is what is truly needed to effectively manage employee Web use to keep your employees and network safe.

Read more of my articles on Web-use management on LinkedIn and the Wavecrest blog: WaveNews.

Productivity in a Time of Endless Distractions

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

time online image

Employees have access to all kinds of digital distractions every minute of the day. So, businesses have to make a decision what is acceptable for Internet use when employees are on the clock. This decision can be hard. There are many who think of privacy issues, not wanting to deter human interaction, or who even have a “my managers watch over their employees so I leave it to them” thought. The only real problem is . . . it’s your business that will suffer if Internet-usage privileges are abused on a regular basis. Bandwidth slowdowns and productivity loss, not to mention increased malware risk, can have a substantial impact on your business. No matter which decision you make for your business, you still need to know what is happening to keep your company, your data, and your employees secure and productive.

You need visibility. If you keep up with our Wavecrest posts, we tend to emphasize this point a lot. Why? Because it is a crucial business tool for today’s digital workplace! You have to know what is happening in your business and on your network so you can make informed business decisions. In this particular case, you need visibility into employees’ time spent online.

Wavecrest Computing’s Time Online feature provides the time that a user spends on the Internet in a useful and informative format with easy-to-interpret charts. Find out which users spend the most time online, spot spikes, and analyze usage for productivity issues or potential bandwidth hogs. Each business is unique and your Internet-use policy should fit your specific business needs. Find the visibility necessary to keep productivity high and mission-critical operations running smoothly, with Cyfin and CyBlock solutions from Wavecrest Computing.

About Wavecrest Computing

Celebrating 20 years in business, Wavecrest Computing, headquartered in historic downtown Melbourne, FL, has provided commercial business and government clients with reliable, accurate Web-use management and Cloud Access Security Broker products since 1996. Managed Service Providers, IT specialists, HR professionals, and business managers trust Wavecrest’s Cyfin and CyBlock products to manage employee Internet usage — managing cloud services, reducing liability risks, improving productivity, saving bandwidth, and controlling costs. Wavecrest has clients worldwide, including General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Florida Department of Health, Siemens, Department of Homeland Security, and a growing list of global enterprises and government agencies. We are a proud long-term GSA contract holder. For more information on the company, products, and partners, visit https://www.wavecrest.net.

Have even more visibility with Wavecrest’s new comparison feature!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

compare-contrastWavecrest is pleased to announce an informative new feature that is now included with the latest versions of CyBlock and Cyfin. Now you can compare Web activity trends in selected date ranges to find anomalies or spikes in usage, compare series activity by metric such as Visits, or view the percentage change in activity from the previous to the current period.

The more visibility you have into your company’s Web activity, the more informed your Web-use decisions are. Each business is unique–you make the decisions on what is acceptable or not! Determine these policies, add them to your enterprise Acceptable Use Policy, and proactively protect your business, your data, and your employees.

reportsDashboardTrendUsersCompare

About Wavecrest Computing

Celebrating 20 years in business, Wavecrest Computing, headquartered in historic downtown Melbourne, FL, has provided commercial business and government clients with reliable, accurate Web-use management and Cloud Access Security Broker products since 1996. Managed Service Providers, IT specialists, HR professionals, and business managers trust Wavecrest’s Cyfin and CyBlock products to manage employee Internet usage — managing cloud services, reducing liability risks, improving productivity, saving bandwidth, and controlling costs. Wavecrest has clients worldwide, including General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Florida Department of Health, Siemens, Department of Homeland Security, and a growing list of global enterprises and government agencies. We are a proud long-term GSA contract holder. For more information on the company, products, and partners, visit http://www.wavecrest.net.

Potential Victims to Very Smart Thieves

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

cat paw stealing cookie

Employees need to know what their employers’ philosophy is behind technology. Does my employer want me to use whatever app I choose? Can I just store and share work information where it is most convenient for me? Will my employer listen when I explain how much my cloud app does to improve my workflow? If you as the employer listen, you could save your business from an incident or a serious breach.

It is amazing that the news is filled with data breach, data loss, ransomware, and spear phishing, and yet many businesses still think they are immune from an attack. If you are connected to the Internet, you are a highly susceptible victim. Do not take this to mean that you should not run your business with the highly efficient and collaborative tools that cloud services offer. It just means think and act to protect your enterprise assets and employees.

Let’s first cover where a major number of incidents start. Your enterprise weakness . . . the employee. It doesn’t matter if you have the best employees in the universe, they are human. Hackers perfect the way they attack; that is their job. They have become so good at what they do that good employees send out W-2s, transfer millions to banks in foreign countries, and hand out their logon credentials without question.

Now let’s talk about what you can do to help your employees to not become victims.

  • Educate them; make them a part of the process. Communicate. It is everyone’s fight.
  • Go ahead and make your most techy employee an honorary go-to person for others with questions.
  • Gain visibility with proactive monitoring tools. Trust me–this is not an employee privacy invasion. You need to know what is going on first; then make informed decisions.
  • Make sure there is a process in place for an employee who questions something. Make the process part of your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

And then the important basics we all know, but are worth repeating . . .

  • Back up regularly and make sure your recovery process is tried and true. Think ransomware attack recovery, so keep it where you can get to it but others can’t.
  • Patch – There is no longer an option to do updates. Many are for security, so just do it and do it consistently. It’s patch management, not patch whenever.
  • Passwords – Maintain, manage, and get creative. Use a password manager if needed.
  • Off-boarding – Make sure to purge all credentials for ex-employees or contractors. How do you know if they are still there? Monitor!!
  • Layered security – Get a firewall, but don’t expect all-in-one add-ons to be impressive. For example, don’t expect the firewall Web-use reporting feature to provide comprehensive and interactive reporting capability. Invest in the solution that means serious employee Web-use reporting business–no more wishy-washy reports that are useless.

Think and act to protect your enterprise assets and employees. Take some time to communicate with your employees about the exploits that they may fall prey to. It is not their fault; they are not an “insider threat” but a potential victim to very smart thieves.

About Wavecrest Computing

Celebrating 20 years in business, Wavecrest Computing, headquartered in historic downtown Melbourne, FL, has provided commercial business and government clients with reliable, accurate Web-use management and Cloud Access Security Broker products since 1996. Managed Service Providers, IT specialists, HR professionals, and business managers trust Wavecrest’s Cyfin and CyBlock products to manage employee Internet usage — managing cloud services, reducing liability risks, improving productivity, saving bandwidth, and controlling costs. Wavecrest has clients worldwide, including General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Florida Department of Health, Siemens, Department of Homeland Security, and a growing list of global enterprises and government agencies. We are a proud long-term GSA contract holder. For more information on the company, products, and partners, visit http://www.wavecrest.net.