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Acceptable Use Policy Importance

Offering guest Wi-Fi is a great way to make your customers feel comfortable at your store, hotel, restaurant or office. But it also means you could be held responsible for any illegal online activities by your visitors. Even worse, allowing unchecked access to your network could be an open invitation for ransomware, Trojan horse or other malware attacks, potentially bringing your entire operation to a halt.

That’s why your business needs a strong acceptable use policy.

But even if you aren’t offering a guest Wi-Fi service, your business could still benefit from an acceptable use policy, sometimes referred to as an AUP. Anytime you have individuals using your network, whether employees or customers, having a policy in place can protect your business and your livelihood.

What’s an Acceptable Use Policy?

An AUP is simply a set of rules you expect your employees and customers/guests to follow while on your network. The goal is to ensure safe, proper use of your network while mitigating the risk of cybersecurity threats and maximizing productivity. A strong AUP could even provide some legal protection in the event one of your valued customers or employees uses your network for nefarious purposes.

The specific content of your AUP is up to you and your company’s needs. Remember to seek legal counsel from an attorney when drafting an AUP. Though we’re not lawyers and aren’t providing any kind of legal advice here, there are, however, some general guidelines to consider when drafting an AUP.

How an AUP Can Benefit Your Business

Many AUPs explicitly prohibit criminal activities such as promoting violence, harassment, identity theft and violations of intellectual property laws. Including this language could reduce your legal risk exposure. Other activities often specifically banned by AUPs include phishing and distributing malware. You could also choose to block access to sites featuring adult content, gambling or other sensitive material. Banning certain sites could help reduce the risk that a visitor or an employee unwittingly downloads a virus into your network.

From a guest or customer perspective, it might even make sense to deny access to your competitors’ websites. Let’s say you run a car dealership and a salesperson asks a potential buyer to wait in the lounge while some paperwork is being processed. To pass the time, the buyer starts searching the web for the same make and model and finds a better deal across town. Your generosity in providing internet access might have cost you a sale.

When it comes to managing employee productivity, an AUP can help you strike the balance between providing access to the internet for research and work-life balance purposes, while ensuring employees aren’t engaging in bandwidth-intensive activities that could be negatively impacting productivity. This brings another benefit of AUPs into the spotlight – traffic management. If your network has limited capacity, for example, you might want to specifically prohibit activities like interactive online gaming or online video streaming (i.e. YouTube, Netflix, etc.) that use substantial amounts of bandwidth. This could help prevent a system slowdown or shutdown.

Once you have an AUP in place, it is essential to enforce it and monitor compliance. If your employees or customers don’t agree to the terms, they won’t get access to the network.

The good news is that implementing an AUP as part of a comprehensive network security package isn’t nearly as daunting as it might seem. You can build one in conjunction with your legal counsel and, once it’s approved, your AUP can help your business stay safe and as productive as you’d like it to be – just food for thought!