British businesses are facing a serious security threat from their own staff, with over a fifth of working adults admitting they have illegally accessed sensitive internal data, such as staff salary information, on corporate systems.
In addition, over half say they would access such information if given the chance to do so.
Research by YouGov, commissioned by Microsoft, has highlighted the challenge facing IT, human resources and finance departments in protecting confidential information from non-authorised employees.
When asked what type of information would tempt them the most, HR and payroll information was the most popular target for respondents, at 36%.
This was followed by their manager’s personal notes (28%) and their colleagues’ personal notes (25%). If presented with the opportunity, 6% said they would steal a colleague’s password.
Men tended to be more dishonest than women, with 27% of men, compared to 16% of women, admitting to having stolen confidential information.
Workers in London and Scotland (25%) were the most likely to offend, with the most honest workers living in the Midlands (18%).
Annemarie Duffy, Microsoft infrastructure server marketing team leader, said, “Particularly worrying is how vulnerable HR and payroll information has become.
"Details of salaries, bank accounts, health records, National Insurance numbers, home addresses and family members could all be taken by a determined internal snooper or identity thief.”
Duffy said firms had to make sure they were using the full identity management features in their servers to protect data.
The survey was based on responses from 2,226 UK adults.