That may get harder to do thanks to new security software for corporate networks.
Later this month, Sophos will offer its antivirus users a free software add-on that will let IT managers block workers from using Second Life on company networks. The Application Control feature of Sophos Anti-Virus already lets managers block popular games like EverQuest and Lineage. Starting on March 22, it will block Second Life, as well.
"We're not against Second Life," says Carol Theriault, a senior security consultant with Sophos. "We want companies making the choice of what runs on their networks. ... It's an area where people feel a lot of time is being wasted."
Second Life is an open-ended 3-D virtual world that provides an online society where users can create and sell things, socialize, and participate in group activities. There are about 4 million registered users but about 2 million regular users. The online world has become a media darling, propelling its popularity -- and the number of users who want to sneak some Second Life time while on the company network and the company clock.
"Because of the media response, people are going to want to check it out," says Theriault. "If someone is feeling rather bored, they can go in and waste a lot of time. The games can be quite addictive."
She also says that if users can't be trusted to act responsibly on corporate computers, then system administrators can use technology to enforce policy. "For businesses operating in the real world, users playing online games can seriously impact performance, drain network resources, and put corporate data at risk," Theriault adds.
Sophos reports that in a recent Web poll of more than 450 system administrators, 90.4% wanted the ability to block the unauthorized use of games at work, and 62% reported that blocking games was essential. In addition to placing unnecessary burdens on company bandwidth and hindering productivity, the use of Web-based games also opens up a new set of IT security threats. Cybercriminals are increasingly trying to figure out ways to take advantage of the number of people flocking to Web 2.0 sites, creating new phishing schemes and planting malicious code on innocent-looking Web pages.
Sophos first added the Application Control feature to Sophos Anti-Virus in September. It's designed to enable IT managers block games, VoIP, peer-to-peer, instant messaging, and distributed computing applications. It's available to users of its Anti-Virus version 6.0 product.