Employees would rather forsake their morning coffee than personal Web surfing at work, according to a recent survey. These same folks also tend to download far more spyware, hacking tools, illegal files and pornography than they realize -- or admit.
"If you click on many of the peer-to-peer file shares, end users agree to make information on their desktop available to parties unknown. Similarly, freeware and shareware sites attach spyware," explains Kian Saneii, vice president of marketing and business development for content-filtering company Websense Inc. "They make it known, but the end user isn't reading the agreement properly."
San Diego-based Websense commissioned the fifth annual Web@Work survey, which was conducted by professional pollster Harris Interactive. Five hundred full-time workers at companies with at least 100 employees were interviewed by telephone from late February through mid-March. Another 350 IT managers were similarly polled on Internet use and security at their organization.
Results show a disconnection between what employees claim they do and what IT managers report actually happens. For instance, 2% of employees admit to accessing online hacking tools at work, but more than 30% of IT managers say they've had employees launch such tools within their network.
Spyware is a huge issue. Only 6% of the workforce claims to have visited sites that use spyware, but 92% of IT managers say spyware's been detected internally and almost half have seen an increase in the number of workstations infected with the stealth programs.
Another interesting result focuses on effectiveness of antivirus solutions. Almost all IT managers -- 95%, to be precise -- expressed confidence in their antivirus software, yet 66% admitted their systems had been infested by malware, such as Mydoom. That's up from 45% last year.
Saneii says such a statistic comes from the reactionary nature of signature-based antivirus solutions and delays in pushing updates to desktops. "You need antivirus, but you will never have antivirus be ahead of the problem," he said.
While residential broadband blooms, it still doesn't rival the attraction at work. A considerable number of employees admit they wait until work to download bandwidth-hogging streaming media for non-work related video clips, photos and mp3 files, according to the survey.
On a brighter note, 84% of employees believe downloading copyrighted content from peer-to-peer, file-sharing Web sites like Kazaa is unethical -- at least while at work.
Pornography also is widely perceived as a no-no at work, though 22% of men admitted to visiting a porn site accidentally or on purpose. The 12% of women who downloaded porn all claimed to have stumbled upon it.
Other gender differences: 64% of men admitted to accessing non-work-related Web sites, compared to 55% of women. Men also were twice as likely to visit chat rooms, message boards and mp3 sites during work. They're three times more likely to surf sports sites on the job too.
Finally, getting back to the coffee question, when employees were asked which they'd give up, 49% said they'd trade their morning coffee to surf the Web for personal reasons, such as conducting online banking, buying tickets and instant-messaging friends. That's actually similar to past years' surveys and, Saneii said, a fact of corporate life.
"If I were to handle that question, I'd probably pick the Internet over coffee too."