'It's certainly not hardcore porn': Canberra public servant fired for surfing for adult images on the job

The man said he looked up the images when his work was 'not particularly interesting'ABC News: Nic MacBean

It is not what taxpayers expect government workers to do in their office, but one Canberra public servant was fired last year for looking up hundreds of pornographic images over several months — often for hours on end.

Key points: The Canberra public servant looked up hundreds of images, sometimes movies, for hours on end over months He admitted to the misconduct in an interview where photos were shown to him A cybersecurity expert says the case shows the Government's security system is weak

The case was one of several computer misuse investigations revealed in documents obtained under freedom of information laws.

While employed in the Community Services Directorate, the man viewed more than 200 pornographic images and accessed four adult websites in 2016 and 2017 before losing his job, the documents show.

Most photos were of naked or nearly naked women, which the man later admitted looking at "mainly for sexual purposes" but added "probably one tenth of it" was for his hobby as a self-taught pencil sketcher.

When the man's bosses suspected the misconduct, they hired investigators who looked up the computer's internet history and even physically photographed him through his office window from outside the building. The first attempt at the latter failed due to closed blinds.

Photo He insisted it was only 'soft porn,' like what you'd find in Penthouse and Playboy magazines.

Composite of soft porn magazines (clockwise from top left) Ralph, Zoo, Penthouse and Playboy

The man's level and position were redacted in the documents but it appears he had his own office. He said in an investigation interview that no-one could see what he was viewing.

Man searched for 'female anatomy,' 'nude models'

When shown the images in the interview, the man said he could not recall if they were the exact photos he accessed but conceded they were "absolutely the type I was looking for".

"I would have purposely searched for 'female anatomy,' nude models … or something like that," he said.

"It's just like watching — reading Playboy or a — or Zoo Magazine … I'm mainly looking for stuff you'd see in Penthouse, you know," he said.

"Because it certainly is not, you know, hardcore porn. I don't particularly like hardcore porn … I don't even consider it now … that's how I explained this to my wife."

The documents show the employee explained how he repeatedly and easily avoided website filters.

He said he would type terms and subjects into search engines, to which he would sometimes receive a prohibited message but would "just do another search".

When the images appeared, he would simply view the list of images rather than clicking into them.

Other times, he would be granted access to the photos because they were on sporting websites — he said he often looked up "sexy incidents" at the Olympics — or hosting websites that had "everything from landscapes to adult content".

Photo He said he'd often search for 'sexy sporting incidents', mainly from the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics

Legs in the airABC News: Elise Pianegonda Trouble determining content viewed

The man said he would often spend "a couple of hours" scrolling through photos and the occasional movie when he was bored after finishing his work — or when the work "was not particularly interesting".

He said he was only "half aware" of ACT Government computer use policies.

"I should have been really fully aware … it was pretty dumb really," he said.

When asked whether the any prohibited messages deterred his behaviour, he said: "No, it didn't, I have to be honest there."

"Maybe a couple of times [I would think] 'I'm sick of this, I'll move onto something else or listen to a bit of music or something', but more often than not it didn't stop me."

Investigators hit roadblocks while trying to determine how much adult content was actually viewed on the listed websites, as the log only detected attempted access.

Some sites used encrypted searches, the documents read.

At one point, investigators tried to obtain a forensic copy of the hard-drive but the computer was "offline or asleep".

Those challenges concerned the director of UNSW Canberra Cyber, Nigel Phair, who previously worked in cyber security for the Australian Federal Police.

Photo About 'one tenth' of the viewing was for his pencil sketching hobby.

A student sketches a life art model.891 ABC Adelaide: Brett Williamson 'Definitely a weak system': Expert

Mr Phair questioned whether the system was sophisticated enough to prove the extent of the man's misconduct had he not frankly admitted to it.

"It's definitely a weak security system," Mr Phair said.

"Although people are very inventive and they'll try to push the boundaries of any security system, whether that be online or indeed physical."

Mr Phair said the ACT Government could consider software that would capture a desktop screen remotely and in real-time, preventing the need for physical photographing.

"Of course, there are costs to buy it, costs to implement it, costs to monitor what goes on."

Mr Phair said the case of the Community Services employee, who was fired in light of the investigation, was serious as taxpayers have high expectations of how their money is spent and of public servants' behaviour.

"There is a general trend towards people not doing the right thing online. We need to address that in society, we need to address that in Government to make sure employees are doing what they're paid to do," he said.

"Technical solutions are not the silver bullet. We need user education, we need policies, we need procedures."

Photo He would bypass website blocks by viewing search results rather than clicking into images.

computer generic fingers on keyboard thumbnailABC News Government defends system

The FOI documents also outlined several 2017 investigations in which ACT Government staff spent majority of their shifts trawling social media, streaming music or sending inappropriate emails to one another.

Last month, the ABC revealed a Canberra vehicle inspector was investigated for secretly looking up the licence details of a member of the public at work. The man kept his job but was demoted.

An ACT Government spokeswoman defended the Government's ICT policies and investigation processes, saying it uses an industry leading web filtering solution to monitor site access.

She said investigators draw on comprehensive metadata and the help of the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Federal Police when needed.

"Any inappropriate use of ACT Government information and communication technology assets is subject to investigation processes which can include, where appropriate, the forensic analysis of relevant equipment," she said.

Photo A cyber expert says the Government should have a more sophisticated security system

Hacker generic imageAAP: Dave Hunt

"Digital forensic copies of hard disks are able to be obtained from computers in 'sleep mode', however if computers are unplugged or switched off, physical seizure would be required."

A Community Services Directorate spokeswoman added that reports of internet misuse are rare and are managed through regular reporting and staff training.

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