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US firms grapple with workplace IT abuse

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Half the US firms polled in a survey have experienced at least one incident of discovering illicit images in the workplace over the last year*. Of those organisations that pursued an investigation, some 44 per cent resulted in the employee's removal from the company. In 41 per cent of cases the firm took some other disciplinary action.

The study by Delta Consulting and sponsored by security firm PixAlert quizzed 50 execs responsible for computer usage policies in a sample of the US's top 500 firms. Nine of 10 of firms quizzed had a policy for dealing with illicit images in the workplace but many were ignorant of legal ramifications of staff viewing porn or other inappropriate images in the workplace.

A similar survey of UK companies by PixAlert last year revealed that 71 per cent of the firms surveyed have disciplined staff over inappropriate images at work within the preceding two years, twice the period covered by the US poll.

Respondents to the US survey rated Internet usage and email/email attachments (both mentioned by 93 per cent of respondents) as the biggest source of risk, followed by other gateway threats such as embedded (81 per cent) and zipped files (73 per cent). Other high-perceived threats come from Wi-Fi networks (68 per cent), mobile phone cameras (63 per cent), non-enterprise controlled networks (61 per cent), memory sticks and encrypted files (59 per cent) and CDs (54 per cent).

"We were not surprised to see that almost all leading organizations surveyed have computer usage policies in place," said Alain Recaborde, principal of Delta Consulting. "But given the high per centage of organizations uncovering images banned by their policies, we were alarmed to find the relatively low awareness of the legal ramifications and potential exposure among those responsible for computer usage policies."

A summary of the survey (registration required) can be found here. ®

* The study also found 26 per cent of those quizzed didn't know whether or not they'd had to use their computer usage policies to deal with workplace porn policies over the last year. Only 24 per cent were able to definitively say they hadn't had any problems with workplace porn and the like over the last 12 months.

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