By Chris Tribbey
It’s just a fact: Employees are going to use their work computers for personal use.
Making sure that personal use — whether it be with Facebook or checking your bracket during March Madness — doesn’t come back to hurt the employer (piracy, malware, cyber threats and the like) is where WebLife Balance comes in.
The Woodland Hills, Calif.-based company was born out of the need to balance the needs of employees and employers, keeping both parties satisfied in a world where the work day rarely runs 9-5.
David Melnick, CEO of WebLife Balance, took the time to chat with the Content Delivery & Security Association and the Hollywood IT Society about the past, present and future of his company.
MESA: What was the impetus behind the launch of WebLife Balance? What gap did the company see, and how has it gone about filling it?
Melnick: Over the last 15 years, the development of the Internet and the modern workplace have been closely linked. The use of the Internet has made the workday and workplace increasingly continuous and virtual. Employers have achieved an “always on” mentality with their workers, driving employees to strike a new “work-life balance”, often involving personal Internet use at work. This personal Internet use has driven employer risks (e.g. cyberthreats, content piracy, acceptable use liability, and privacy obligations).
WebLife Balance addresses these risks and enhances employee morale by securely and privately containing personal web usage at work.
Employees are now spending on average nearly two hours per day in personal web use at work. This web use originates 90% of malware threats, exposing employers to loss of trade secrets, data breaches, and financial theft. Additionally, inappropriate web use increases employer liability. In response, some employers have implemented increasingly invasive monitoring of employee activity, resulting in conflicts with jurisdictional privacy obligations.
Global CIOs and CISOs struggle with the increasing requirements at a time when they are losing their ability to carry out consistent and secure technology policy due to rapidly advancing “consumerization” and “bring your own device” trends. As a result, more time and resources are spent defending against cyber threats, while related IP assets and data losses grow.
There are protection solutions available (see a review of various options here), but most are focused on containing the threat while limiting employees’ right to privacy.
I realized that there was great benefit to embracing employee Internet use at work and that protecting their privacy actually empowers them to become agents of — rather than hindrances to — greater overall organizational security by involving them in the protection of the corporate network.
MESA: Can you share some of your favorite use cases, where people put WebLife Balance’s technology to especially good use?
Melnick: A global Fortune 500 life sciences company recently began implementing the WebLife platform for its more than 25,000 employees worldwide, starting with the U.K. and Spain. They chose WebLife because of our ability not only to guarantee employees complete personal privacy with their electronic communications at work but also because of our ability to prevent employees from taking or leaking sensitive documents or intellectual property, to reduce the company’s liability, and to enable them to comply with complex, in some cases even conflicting, privacy regulations across their global footprint.
WebLife offers their employees a private portal to do their personal Web browsing with the confidence that their employer is giving them the freedom to take care of personal business without putting the network at risk or monitoring their activity. This company has enjoyed the quick, easy implementation of the WebLife system and expects the portal to be accessible by all its employees by the end of 2014.
MESA: What’s WebLife Balance’s business prospect for media and entertainment companies? What possibilities does the technology open up for content companies and content distributors?
Melnick: WebLife represents the next generation in content protection strategies, which segments the personal high-risk Internet use that individuals expect from the content development- and distribution-related activities they are performing as part of their work every day.
Some content protection strategies in the development and distribution process advocate shutting down all access to the Internet for employees and contractors, but that approach just stifles the creative need to access the Internet as part of the content development process. The reality is that employees and contractors both need to access the content and the public Internet, which unfortunately simultaneously gives rise to our growing cyber threats. The WebLife approach both accepts and manages the risks associated with that new reality by providing employees a private portal separate from the company network for personal online activity. It also protects companies from content theft by preventing employees from transferring files outside the company network.
Entertainment executives do NOT have to choose between the security of their content or their contactors and employees’ privacy. Through its revolutionary process, WebLife can help entertainment companies protect their content and limit their exposure to cyber threats posed by employee online activity at work.
MESA: Can you offer more detail regarding how WebLife Balance’s offerings boost IT security and lower liability for companies?
Melnick: WebLife Balance grants employees access to an isolated personal use network – one that reduces corporate liability and risk of non-compliance with privacy laws, while cost efficiently strengthening organizational security. Our solution creates a ReverseVPN, isolating harmful malware files from reaching the corporate network and blinding management from monitoring employee activity. Should an employee unknowingly click on a malicious link, that activity will be contained within the WebLife platform before it ever reaches the corporate network. By transferring the management of the employee’s Internet activity to WebLife Balance, WebLife mitigates the organization’s liability risk.
Deployment requires the WebLife Balance Software as a Service (SaaS), a lightweight client application which established a ReverseVPN tunnel to the WebLife Balance cloud servers. The ReverseVPN completely isolates employee activity from the corporate network, providing containment for potential malware in addition to other web browsing risks, mitigating the company’s liability for dangerous employee online behavior.
MESA: With WebLife Balance’s product offering, how important is it to make sure users are trained beforehand? And how prepared is the company to respond to concerns or problems that may pop up?
Melnick: The beauty of the WebLife solution lies in its simplicity, and it therefore requires very little end user training. Once employees log in to their private portal, they are able to surf the Web and access personal email and sites just as they normally would. Our training focuses on educating users as to the features and benefits of the portal, including the enhanced privacy they will enjoy personally, and how separating their personal Web use from the corporate network is better for both them and their company.
By keeping their personal Web browsing separate, they are actually protecting their company, its customers and themselves from any cyber threats that may result from their online behaviors and choices.
Should concerns arise, each WebLife customer has a dedicated technical specialist that provides real-time customer support.