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Employee study cites rampant Internet abuse

Network World Fusion

April 20, 2000
Web posted at: 9:59 a.m. EDT (1359 GMT)

(IDG) -- More employees are checking their stock prices, shopping for travel bargains and exchanging personal e-mail via the Internet while at work - even though their companies prohibit these activities, according to a recently released study.

Commissioned by Elron Software of Burlington, Mass., which provides Internet access and e-mail content filtering software, the study found a significant increase in the number of companies with Web and e-mail usage policies. But the study also found that despite these policies, employees' personal use of corporate network resources is rising.

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Elron's second annual corporate Internet usage study was conducted by NFO Interactive, a market research firm that interviewed 576 employees who have Web and e-mail access at work. For the companies represented in the study, 68% have Web usage policies, up from 48.9% a year ago. Less than 60% have corporate e-mail policies, an increase from 46.5% a year ago.

One of the study's most alarming findings is a 170% increase in the number of employees who acknowledged receiving confidential information from employees at other companies. The number of respondents who reported receiving confidential e-mail leaks jumped from 9.2% in 1999 to 24.1% in 2000.

According to the study, employees are getting more personal e-mails with attachments, with 73.5% of respondents saying they receive these types of e-mails compared to 63.6% last year.

In addition, nearly one out of five respondents received at least one potentially offensive e-mail per month from a co-worker.

"Lots of companies are finding that their exposure is shifting from the Web to e-mail," says Ray Boelig, president and CEO of Elron Software. "Companies face a lot of issues with regard to leakage of confidential information, excessive spam and offensive e-mail."

In the area of inappropriate surfing, one in three corporate workers said they spend 25 minutes or more each day using the Internet for personal reasons. Much of that time is spent shopping, with the most popular destination sites for vacations and vehicles.

Employees report worse behavior among their colleagues. Nearly one in 10 respondents say they have seen co-workers accessing adult sites, while nearly one-third say they have seen co-workers job hunting on the Internet.

Companies seem to be cracking down on inappropriate Web usage. One out of three employees say they know a co-worker who has been confronted for surfing abuse.

The study's findings are worse than expected for David Bradshaw, an MIS analyst at a Comcast Communications division in King of Prussia, Penn. Bradshaw uses Elron's Internet Manager software to monitor Internet usage by 100 Comcast employees in his building.

"I mostly see people going to news sites or Pointcast or the NCAA Final Four site, but for the most part, it's before business hours, after business hours or during lunch time," Bradshaw says. "I've been monitoring usage for six months, and I haven't seen anyone go to adult sites."

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Elron Software
NFO Interactive

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