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Personal Surfing Just Part of the Workday

  |  April 28, 2004   |  Comments

Internet usage for personal reasons has become as habitual as morning coffee, as employees are nearly evenly split between choosing their connection or caffeine.

Did you know that one online movie trailer can use as much bandwidth as 10,000 emails? Most employees aren't aware of the data clog either, as they use corporate networks for personal usage. A Websense, Inc. survey conducted by Harris Interactive of 500 employees and 350 IT managers revealed some insight as to how the work/life lines have blurred.

To illustrate how hooked the workforce has become on corporate Internet access for personal surfing, 49 percent of the surveyed employees would rather give up their morning coffee than their connection, while 46 percent chose the caffeine. Interestingly, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of the employees believed that personal Web surfing makes them more productive in the office, while 57 percent don't recognize an impact on productivity.

Just over half (51 percent) of the surveyed employees admitted to spending between one and five hours per week using the corporate Internet connection for personal surfing, averaging about 2 hours per week. However, the IT managers that were surveyed were either more generous or more realistic: they estimated personal employee usage at more than six hours per week.

The largest disparity between the polled employee group and IT management group was evident in questions related to spyware: 6 percent of employees said they have visited a site that contained spyware while 92 percent of IT managers estimate that their organization suffered an infection.

In addition to browsing a variety of non-work related Web sites, some employees are also engaging in invasive Internet activities. While 17 percent admitted to using instant messaging (IM) for personal reasons, more than one-third (37 percent) of IM users sent or received file attachments via the application.

Streaming media for Internet radio or live news broadcasts are popular with 21 percent of the workforce. Even though only 6 percent admitting to downloading or storing non-work related video clips, IT managers estimate that 10 percent of their company's total disk space is used for non-work related movies, files, photos, and MP3s. And although 84 percent of employees consider peer-to-peer music sharing unethical, 17 percent have 100 or more music files stored on their work computer.

Porn Web sites wind up being accessed admittedly by 22 percent of the surveyed men and 12 percent of women. However, 13 percent of the men and all of the women claimed it was unintentional.

Most Popular Non-Work Related
Web Sites Accessed at the Office
News 84%
Travel 64%
Personal E-mail 56%
Shopping 55%
Online Banking 53%
Source: Websense and Harris Interactive

Companies haven't entirely made the correlation between misusing resources and stealing supplies yet, but Websense president Curt Staker estimates that half of the organizations that allow Internet access dismiss or discipline employees each year for misappropriating bandwidth. "There is an innocent oblivion companies have about what is or isn't being done," said Staker.

Staker notes that there are more avenues to infect the corporate environment, suggesting that companies block sites that offer spyware, hacking tools, and malicious code. He also recommended that companies defer access to non-work related sites until after 5pm, allowing employees to take advantage of what is often a faster Internet connection than home.

"There are approximately 300 million Internet-enabled employees around the world currently, and 65 to 70 million are under some kind of management tool," said Staker.

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