It’s the problem people used to worry about before other security issues took centre-stage – porn in the workplace.

Two companies at this year’s Infosecurity Europe Show are showcasing technology that claims to deal with a problem that they say has never really gone away.

After a quiet few years away from press attention, First 4 Internet (F4i) will be demonstrating its system, ICA Image Composition Analysis, to show-goers using actual images to show off its effectiveness. The company claims the system will also reliably detect pornographic text in emails. The company uses independent test data from Tescom in its sales pitch to back up its belief that ICA is capable of correctly detecting and categorising 95 percent of the images it scans at a average throughput of 5MB per second.

The porn problem is far from old-hat, says the company. According to its figures, up to a third of employees have admitted to sending “sexual content” by email. This figure sounds implausibly high but does include textually-explicit email, so can’t be completely discounted.

Anyone ignoring the porn and explicit email issue risks legal problem, especially now that workplace rules are being amended in ways that could open companies to lawsuits. This claim is harder to gauge as few large cases have yet emerged in the UK or Europe, despite the predictable legal wrangles in the USA, a country with over a million lawyers looking for work.

First 4 Internet is already in partnership with SurfControl and MessageLabs, and will announce a new partner at the Infosecurity Show (stand 200). In fact, the company doesn't actually sell its technology to customers - it sells its software engine to vendors who use it in their own systems.

One of the companies using the technology is UK-based PixAlert which will be showcasing its system, PixAlert Enterprise, on stand 4100. The system is based on real-time analysis of content entering a network from a number of data points, including memory sticks, laptops, digital cameras, scanners, CDs/DVDs ,Wi-Fi or 3G phones, in addition to the usual Internet and email traffic. The ability to analyse form any source is claimed to be a major USP.

The company has come armed with its own set of statistics. According to a recent survey carried out by the company for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, “70 percent of UK companies have already had to take disciplinary action as a result of employees viewing pornographic images on their company computers.”

Fifty percent of senior managers question were also unaware of the legal implications of such images and text when circulated in the workplace. “Directors, the company secretary and the managers they appoint are personally criminally liable for up to five years imprisonment if any negligence is found in the area of image and data content management,” PixAlert states in its show press release.

The release continues in frightening fashion. “In one recent case at the Department of Works and Pensions, over 2 million inappropriate images were found plus a staggering 18,000 illegal images. Furthermore, 27 percent of Fortune 500 companies have battled sexual harassment claims stemming from employee misuse and abuse of inappropriate images on corporate computers.”

The PixAlert system works by sending any images it suspects of being a problem to the administrator in thumbnail form, complete with user data and a machine and time stamp. This is well and good, but inevitably introduces a work overhead. Anyone interested in the system has to factor this in alongside dealing with the myriad of other security hassles that come along in an average bad day at the IT office.