There is widespread ignorance of corporate internet acceptable usage policies (AUPs) in UK businesses, according to a survey of 300 business internet users by internet security appliance company SmoothWall.
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The survey found that over 40% had installed instant messaging clients onto their machines from the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL, to communicate with friends and family.
Almost a third of respondents admitted to occasionally downloading music or videos over the internet while at work, with 8% admitting to doing it on a regular basis.
Apart from the fact that downloading these large files consumes large amounts of network bandwidth, employers could be seen to be complicit to any violation of copyright law, said SmoothWall.
The survey also found that almost 25% of respondents were using the Skype voice over IP software on their employers’ desktops.
When it came to personal surfing, news sites were the most popular non-work-related websites, regularly visited by 85% of respondents. Shopping and auction sites were also popular, with 40% shopping on-line from work and 37% using eBay and other auction sites.
Although most firms are prepared to allow a certain amount of non work-related web browsing, the survey revealed much more than incidental usage.
More than a third of respondents confessed to spending in excess of 30 minutes each working day accessing non work-related web sites, while 22% spent more than an hour per day.
Only 15% of respondents said they only accessed non work-related sites during lunchtime and outside of core working hours.
The survey found that where an AUP was in place, in 40% of cases it was not enforced by the firm.
“Companies are obviously still not enforcing internet usage policies. We recommend locking down corporate networks to all but essential business applications, and strictly controlling access to non work-related web sites during working hours,” said SmoothWall managing director George Lungley.