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Employee study cites rampant Internet abuse

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More employees are checking their stock prices, shopping for travel bargains and exchanging personal e-mail via the Internet while at work - even though their companies prohibit these activities, according to a study released last week.

Commissioned by Elron Software, a Burlington, Mass., provider of Internet access and e-mail content filtering software, the study found a significant increase in the number of companies with Web and e-mail usage policies. But the study also found that despite these policies, employees' personal use of corporate network resources is rising.

Elron's second annual corporate Internet usage study was conducted by NFO Interactive, a market research firm in Northwood, Ohio, that interviewed 576 employees who have Web and e-mail access at work. Some 68% of the companies represented in the study have Web usage policies, up from 48.9% a year ago. Approximately 60% have corporate e-mail policies, an increase from 46.5% a year ago.

One of the study's most alarming findings is a 170% increase in the number of employees who acknowledged receiving confidential information from employees at other companies. The number of respondents who reported receiving confidential e-mail leaks jumped from 9.2% last year to 24.1% this year.

According to the study, employees are getting more personal e-mails with attachments, with 73.5% of respondents saying they receive these types of e-mails compared with 63.6% last year. Also, nearly one out of five respondents received at least one potentially offensive e-mail per month from a co-worker.

In the area of inappropriate surfing, one in three workers said they spend 25 minutes or more each day using the Internet for personal reasons. Much of that time is spent shopping, with the most popular destination sites being for vacations and vehicles.

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