back to article HMRC 'disciplined' almost 100 employees for computer misuse over 24 months

Almost 100 staff at UK tax collector HMRC faced disciplinary action for computer misuse in the previous two full financial years. This is according to a Freedom of Information request by the Parliament Street think tank which discovered 92 employees were probed and rapped for the abuse in fiscal '18 and '19. The most …

  1. Cederic Silver badge

    What's the issue?

    This sounds like an entirely normal level of silliness for any employer with that number of staff, especially one with its own contact centres.

    Many people aren't good at following corporate policies, struggle to avoid using work resources (email or otherwise) for personal activities, and fail to use common sense (let alone best practice) on social media. It would be a surprise if HMRC employed none of them.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: What's the issue?

      The issue is these idiots have access to yours and mine personal tax details.

      1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

        Re: What's the issue?

        Also we don't have a choice as to which tax authority we are the customers of. I can stop using Amazon if I don't like the way they handle information about me, can't do that with the tax office.

        1. Neil 13

          Re: What's the issue?

          Actually you can. You can pay your dues to any tax office you like by simply relocating to another country. That's why, technically, HMRC are correct to describe their tax payers as customers (loathsome term).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What's the issue?

          Dear Customer,

          Using the word customer to me implies that you have some sort of choice. If only there was some sort of alternative term. Dear wage slave? Dear victim?

          Dear Taxpayer??

          1. William Towle
            Paris Hilton

            Re: What's the issue?

            > Dear Taxpayer??

            Doesn't this one invite a certain class of recipient to think "can't be addressed to me, I don't pay tax"?

            // recalling the Anne Widdecombe programme where in an interview she tells a girl she's working class and gets told "I'm not working class, I don't work".

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: What's the issue?

      The issue isn't with the staff misusing IT resources, or going against/being unaware of HMRC policy.

      The issue is that HMRC either does not have proper policies or HMRC IT do not have the proper enforcement of IT policies in place. I mean, seriously, is it THAT difficult to block Facebook etc from the HMRC corporate intranet??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's the issue?

        Could it be that HRMC has a Twitter and Facebook page and want their staff to "interact"* with it?

        I work at a NHS hospital which has twitter and FB presence - and then block access to it.

        *sorry, sounded almost like some sort of hipster there.

    3. Blackjack

      Re: What's the issue?

      That's why most office workers nowadays, those with a brain at least, use their own personal smartphone for non work stuff, and office computers for work stuff. Honesty when I read this article I thought it was something from ten years ago. Some people even have a work phone and a personal phone just to be safer.

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: What's the issue?

        You don't have to post from a work computer or smartphone to be in violation of your employer's social media policy. Identifying yourself as an employee of <X> while making public statements is generally forbidden. This is why we have the possibilty to post as AC on El Reg.

    4. jbrownman
      Coat

      Re: What's the issue?

      From my experience number of employees has no relevance,

      walk into any reception/ office / high st store and if farcebook or other brain numbing so called social media isn't on their computer screen , its in their hand.

      Elreg is ok as its educational and essential reading.

      On a side note, i wonder how many dodgy emails HMRC get with regards to a tax rebate?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hammy The Hamster Lives!

    It been going ever since computers (or terminals, as was) first hit the desks of office workers. The only way to eradicate abuse of the system is to shut down the system.

    Posted using my work laptop in work time.

    1. Craig 2 Silver badge

      Re: Hammy The Hamster Lives!

      Posted using my work laptop in work time.

      Indeed, like the majority of traffic here I suspect. I wonder if The Reg could produce a nice chart of day & time of week compared to traffic & post levels...

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Hammy The Hamster Lives!

        Posted using my work laptop in work time.

        Here's my stats for the chart ;-}

        Posting using my employers computer from home! Earlier today I posted from work using my employers computer!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hammy The Hamster Lives!

        Hammy the Hamster, wow!

        I wonder how many on here realise what this is, going back to the very early days of IT in the IR.

        Now we just need to bring back the halcyon days of pints of bitter in the Frog and Birthmark, discussing the trials and tribulations of life in LP39!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hammy The Hamster Lives!

          Boyd House and Reynolds House may be piles of rubble now, but the memories linger on.

      3. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Hammy The Hamster Lives!

        "I wonder if The Reg could produce a nice chart of day & time of week compared to traffic & post levels..."

        I think the fact they pulled the El Reg 'Weekend Edition' some time ago says it all.

  3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Devil

    I've always wondered, since you have email trails and proxy logs, are the rules being fairly used on everyone, or just the people whom you want to get rid of?

    Asking for a f(r)iend...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Infosec here for public sector. Normally it's those we find out through audits or via colleagues grassing on them.

      There is no HR involvement or execs when it comes to who is investigated, so no malicious motivation behind it.

      Assuming something is found, it'll be taken to line management and HR, at which point it's up to them to take forward, we'll only be involved at any disciplinary/court etc.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "had already received a final written warning for computer misuse"

    Um, so how many "final" written warnings before something actually final happens ?

    Because if they already got a final warning last year, and another one this year, what's to keep them from getting another one next year ?

    Or is it just final in the sense that they won't be getting another one in that year ?

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: "had already received a final written warning for computer misuse"

      I suspect they were the ones who got fired.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not clear from the article what the offences were.

    There's no information on which offences, if any, were related to data mis-handling.

    The 'social media' cases could jut be wasting time at work, the email offences could be circulating off-colour material (a contractor friend of mine was sacked many years back for inadvertently copying the wrong person in on a 'joke' email.

    If they were abusing (my) data I'm concerned, if they were not fully obeying the organisation's policies I'm more sanguine.

    I can't really draw any conclusions from this.

    1. Craig 2 Silver badge

      Re: It's not clear from the article what the offences were.

      I would hope intentionally mis-handling the public's data would be grounds for instant dismissal rather than just a warning...

      1. Shez

        Re: It's not clear from the article what the offences were.

        Which is probably where the 8 people fired come in.

        All this is really proving is that HMRC have methods and procedures in place for auditing, detecting and taking action against people who you wouldn't want handling the financial data of the country's citizens.

        Good on them.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It's not clear from the article what the offences were.

        "I would hope intentionally mis-handling the public's data would be grounds for instant dismissal"

        They'd just count it as work.

  6. Efer Brick

    "probed and rapped"

    presumably that falls under benefit in kind?

  7. no user left unlocked

    A broad brush

    "wider misuse of computers or HMRC systems" Just how wide are we talking here?

    At the lower end it could be with tracking individuals, find the ex kinda thing and at the higher end it could be bulk sale of our data to criminal groups.

    As I've no real trust in any Gov department to do the right thing I could easily see them rationalising it as not a security breach because its an internal matter rather than externals gaining access. Thus easier to rationalise sweeping it under the carpet.

    Eight dismissals if all separate cases is eight chances of my details being out there......

  8. simonb_london

    Time for a career change

    When I got into trouble for using the Internet too much many years ago I ended up just making an occupation of it.

    Now I am in the fortunate position of being encouraged to read the Register because I am keeping up with news and new developments in IT, which is part of my new career :)

    1. Is It Me Bronze badge

      Re: Time for a career change

      I once had a disciplinary at work for inappropriate internet usage.

      It was ElReg and the user posts, I then explained several occasions where what I had read in the user posts meant I was either able to remove a rootkit, or stop a virus and they gave up on it then

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Time for a career change

        @Is It Me....

        Our patching procedure includes a section on where to look for information in case MS patches have caused anyone issues,before we approve them for deployment, and El Reg is one of the sources.

        Plus it's non stop guffaw fest when we can forward links to articles about Cisco crappery to our colleagues in Data Networks.

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