Labour now Department of Mucking About

19:58, Dec 30 2010

Public servants illicitly downloaded thousands of applications – including shoot-'em-up games – on to Labour Department work computers, placing its IT system in danger.

The breaches, revealed in a email obtained by The Dominion Post, could bring down computer systems and cause damage costing "hundreds of thousands" of dollars to fix, Labour MP Trevor Mallard said.

It also indicated staff were playing when they should be working. "You shouldn't have time to play these games." The email sent to Labour Department staff this month from deputy chief executive (business service group) Craig Owen said more than 2000 "unsupported, unlicensed and unauthorised" software applications had been loaded on to the department's workstations.

"This exposes the department to considerable risk including the threat of viruses and malware and having unlicensed software on departmental equipment."

More than 400 of the applications were games, he said.

There were "significant costs to resolve" the issues, the memo said, though the department was unable to provide a figure. The software was discovered during an upgrade of the department's computer system.

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A spokesman identified sci-fi game Halo and first-person shooter Doom as among the downloaded games.

Mr Mallard, his party's labour spokesman, admitted to having solitaire on his work iPad and said the downloads were not "hanging offences", but the State Services Commission had given government departments clear guidelines on computer use.

The breaches may suggest a lack of training for new staff, he said. The email implied that staff were playing when they should be working. "I don't know of any part of the Department of Labour that doesn't have a lot of work to do."

Internet safety company Watchdog managing director Peter Mancer said unauthorised downloads could lead to the accidental download of malware – malicious software – which could make the computer system crash or send out spam emails.

It could mean the need for a costly computer rebuild, he said.

Labour Department information and communications technology director Stephen Fox said the downloads were concerning. They were a "legacy of the IT environment", he said, and did not affect the overall network.

There was no evidence of pornography among the downloaded applications. He could not say how much time staff had spent playing downloaded games. Some of the applications were work-related and nobody had been reprimanded over the downloads.

A spokesman for Duty Minister Anne Tolley said it was an operational issue for the department and she would not comment. Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson could not be contacted yesterday.

In 2008 it was revealed the Immigration Service, part of the Labour Department, dealt with one case of improper staff behaviour almost every fortnight.

The most frequent form of improper behaviour in the previous 17 months had been system misuse, which included inappropriate use of email, telephone misuse, accessing records without a genuine business reason, and using another worker's computer identity to access or process applications.

The Dominion Post