Security at risk as confidential email soars: study

Employees’ cavalier use of the Internet and email has become a serious security risk for companies as confidential information threatens to leak through their systems, according to a study from market researcher NFO InDepth Interactive, a division of NFO WorldGroup Inc.

A survey of 498 employees working in a variety of organizations revealed that 40 percent of respondents admitted to receiving confidential information about other companies via the Internet – a 356 per cent increase since 1999, the researcher reported.

What’s more, only 60 per cent of the workers surveyed said that they were aware of their employers’ Internet usage policies.

The study, released Monday, was commissioned by Internet policy management software maker Elron Software Inc., as part of an annual survey of corporate Web and e-mail use.

While the research indicated that companies should be on the lookout for employees leaking their sensitive information, they should also be concerned about their workers spreading viruses, the researcher noted.

One-third of the surveyed workers said that they had sent or received a virus-infected e-mail more than once, NGO WorldGroup said.

And besides sending precarious information, the survey revealed that employees are accessing suspect information, at least in their employers’ eyes.

Sixty-four per cent of the workers polled said that they send personal e-mails and surf the Internet for personal reasons during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, the study found.

Furthermore, 90 per cent of the respondents said that they spend at least 30 minutes a day writing or responding to personal e-mails while at work, and 45 per cent of that group said that they also spend half an hour a day surfing the Web.

Meanwhile, 86 per cent of those polled said that they or someone they know has been questioned for inappropriate e-mail use, and that their company has a published e-mail policy, the researcher noted.

Despite employees’ apparently furtive use of the Internet and e-mail, 75 per cent of those surveyed said that it would be acceptable for their employers to implement a Web and e-mail monitoring system if they were notified beforehand, the researcher said.

NFO WorldGroup, based in Greenwich, Conn., can be reached at Elron Software, based in Burlington, Mass., can be reached at