For over a decade, companies have relied on increasingly sophisticated software firewalls to ensure that sensitive company information is secured. But the firewalls have a second important feature: Preventing employees from using company computers to send inappropriate information or view parts of the Internet that are known in today’s parlance as “Not Safe For Work”.

Your company has perhaps spent thousands on firewalls. A Congressional scandal and an announcement by Apple yesterday only reinforce the fact that those firewalls are becoming increasingly meaningless.

Does Your Firewall Have a Big Hole?

Two unrelated stories yesterday should provide further confirmation to companies that the days of merely relying on firewalls to protect information are gone.

First, there was the admission that Representative Anthony Weiner of New York had used his phone to send sexually-charged pictures and content via Twitter, Facebook and other sources.  Who did he send it too? According to one report, to someone who had “liked” one of his office’s YouTube’s videos.

But a second story was that Apple was in the midst of releasing its next version of the operating system for its phone and tablet.  What’s notable about it? No longer will employees need a computer to run those devices or sync them. The phones and tablets will be synced to a cloud server it calls, not surprisingly, iCloud.

Of course, some of this technology has existed for a while now (Dropbox comes to mind), but by adding cloud storage to iPhones, iPads and everything else, Apple is creating something for the masses.  And that means that data that is stored on a phone or elsewhere will be synced EVERYWHERE.  E-mails. Photos. Data files. EVERYTHING.

What do these stories have to do with your workplace?  Have you noticed how employees can now use their smartphones during work hours to completely circumvent those expensive firewalls you have set up? (And if you haven’t, you haven’t been paying attention.)

Many employees are using their phones to get work done. But don’t be surprised if there are a few who use it like Rep. Weiner did — irresponsibly.  How is your workplace prepared for that?

And are your prepared for the employee who takes company files, e-mails them to himself, and uploads them to a cloud service — all in a matter of seconds?

How good does that firewall look right now?

And so, employers need to have a Plan B. A plan that includes any software that the company uses but goes beyond that.  That plan must include policies, training, monitoring, and followup.  And lots of vigilance.

Otherwise, the next scandal waiting to brew can be the one at your company with an employee who decides it would be fun to take pictures of himself to send to others — or worse, your company secrets.