The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary makes it clear to students every time they turn on their PCs that certain computer activities are unwelcome. Judging from a survey conducted on behalf of a Canadian anti-piracy organization, many corporations could learn something about computer management from this school.

SAIT pushes a note to students when they boot up their PCs, telling them what is and is not allowed on SAIT-owned computers.

SAIT is up front about its computer-use policy. According to the Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft (CAAST), many companies are not so forthright. In a Decima Research Inc. survey conducted for the anti-piracy group, 42 per cent of respondents said their companies never outlined corporate policies regarding software downloads, installations and using unlicensed apps on workplace PCs.

“Many companies do not sit down and go through with employees, as part of the standard hiring practice, how they can use computers and what the company policies are,” said Allan Steel, a CAAST director.

Simon Tang, senior manager, security services at Deloitte, said companies should start with clear policies that describe what’s not allowed, what could happen to workers if they don’t comply, and how the company monitors for rule-breakers.

“If the employee knows the policy…and knows the company is watching, right from the get-go the employee isn’t trying to test the policy,” he said.

Companies should consider education and communication alongside technology to curb unauthorized computer use. “As close to a silver bullet would be the three things working together — employee awareness, having the policy in place and having technical mechanisms.” Tang said.