Porn in The Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON — Employees at the Department of Homeland Security may be doing more than purporting to protect the country from terrorism. According to a report by DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner, a lot of them also may be looking at porn while on the clock.

Skinner filed a report Friday outlining a recent internal computer network test that uncovered 65 million security alerts on DHS computers, 6.5 million of which could have been caused by employees seeking out pornographic content on DHS computers.

According to the report, most of the “detect.misuse.porn” alerts returned in the test came from 16 computers on the department’s network, though Skinner said he could not pinpoint the specific machines that triggered the alerts, a fact he attributes to a flaw in the existing system.

As such, Skinner’s report called for the DHS to more effectively use its internal security tools, saying the current alert system was too broad. An additional problem he discovered with the porn alerts, for example, was that the system would automatically trigger if questionable words appeared inside a harmless search string, such that keying in the term “behavioral” would set off the porn alert that targets the world “oral.”

The report also concluded that the number of alerts at the DHS had risen considerably in recent years, jumping from about 5.4 million alerts each month to more than 21.5 million in early 2005, the time period studied in the report.

Skinner provided no analysis as to what may have caused the increase.