Web Use Perceptions v. Reality

By CIO Update Staff

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While employees indicate that surfing the Internet at work is as important as their morning coffee, the survey also revealed a "startling" discrepancy between what employees actually admit to doing versus IT managers' perception of what is actually occurring in their corporate networks.

For example, employees only admit to spending two-hours per week surfing the Web for personal reasons, but IT managers believe that number to be more than six-hours a week. Similarly, while only two-percent of employees admitted to accessing online hacking tools at work, one-third of IT managers said an employee has launched a hacking tool within their network.

The survey also found many IT managers are either unaware of, or do not fully understand the risks presented by new emerging Internet threats such as spyware, unsanctioned instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing and Web-based viruses such as MyDoom. Nearly 95% of IT managers said they are confident their company's current antivirus software is able to stop viruses from attacking the company's network, yet two-thirds reported their organizations were infected by a Web-based virus.

The Web@Work study, which was conducted by Harris Interactive in March, polled 500 employees and 350 IT managers of organizations with at least 100 employees. The survey looked at participant's Web and software application usage in the workplace. Additional results include:

  • Coffee Versus the Internet: when asked if they would rather give up their morning coffee or their ability to use the Internet at work for personal reasons, employees surveyed were split: 49% said they would rather give up their morning coffee, while 46% said they would give up their Internet access.
  • Personal Surfing: of those who use the Internet at work, 51% of employees said they spend one-to-five hours per week surfing the Internet at work for personal reasons, an average of two-hours per week. However, when IT managers were asked how much time they think the average employee spends accessing non-work related Web sites at work, they estimated just over six-hours per week.
  • Effectiveness of Antivirus: nearly 95% of IT managers said they are confident that their company's current antivirus software is able to stop viruses from attacking their company's network, yet two-thirds (66%) reported their companies have been infected by a Web-based virus such as Nimda or MyDoom, as compared to only 45% in 2003.
  • Spyware: only six-percent of employees who access the Internet at work said they have ever visited any Web sites that contain spyware; however, 92% of IT managers estimate their organization has been infected by spyware at some point. Of those who acknowledged they had a spyware infection, an average of 29% of their workstations have been infected, and 40% of IT managers indicated the number of spyware-infected workstations at their organization has increased.
  • Instant Messaging: approximately 17% of employees admit to using instant messaging (IM) at work; and of those who use IM, 37% have either sent or received file attachments via IM while at work. Interestingly enough, almost two-thirds (64%) of companies do not have corporate-sanctioned instant messaging, according to IT managers.
  • MP3 Files/Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: 84% of all employees believe that downloading copyrighted content from peer-to-peer file-sharing Web sites, such as Kazaa or Grokster, while at work is unethical.
  • Pornography: more men than women view pornography at work. Whether it was by accident or on purpose, 22% of male employees said they had visited a porn site while at work, while only 12% of women had done so. Of those that admitted to viewing pornography sites at work, 13% of the men admitted it was intentional. Of the women that indicated visiting a porn site at work, all of them said it was unintentional.
  • Streaming Media: 21% of employees said they use streaming media to do such things as listen to Internet radio or watch live news casts via the Web. Only six-percent of respondents admitted to ever downloading and storing any non-work related video clips or movie clips on to their work computer. However, IT managers estimate that 10% of their company's total disk space is taken up by non-work related files, such as .mp3 files, photos, and movies.
  • Faster Connection at Work: almost three-quarters (73%) of employees surveyed have access to a high-speed Internet connection at work, while only approximately a third have a high-speed connection at home. Being able to surf non-work related Web sites, play games and view streaming media during the work day continues to be an attractive proposition for employees, especially as Web content becomes richer, requiring more bandwidth.
  • Web Sites Accessed: the most popular types of non-work related Web sites that employees access at work are news (84%), travel (64%), personal email (56%), shopping (55%), and online banking (53%).
  • Gender differences: men tend to engage more in personal surfing at work than women. 64% of men admitted to accessing non-work related Web sites during work hours versus 55% of women. Furthermore, men are two times more likely than women to visit chat rooms or message boards during work hours, and they are also two times more likely than women to visit mp3 sites. Men are also over three times more likely than women to visit sports sites during working hours.
  • This article was compiled and edited by CIO Update staff. Please direct any questions regarding its content to Allen Bernard, Managing Editor.