Xmas shopping at work poses IT threat – BSA

12 Dec 2007

Viruses, malicious software, unauthorised applications and media sharing may be grinches of the holiday season for bosses as workers increase their internet time shopping for gifts before Christmas.

A survey from Business Software Alliance (BSA) has found that workers spend more time online at work for recreational and shopping purposes in the lead-up to Christmas, resulting in network efficiency and data integrity problems for employers.

The No 1 non-work-related holiday activity on work computers is shopping for gifts online.

The study, conducted by R&T Strategies on behalf of BSA, surveyed wired workers in 20 countries around the world.

Overall, wired workers who participate in year-end gift giving report that they will buy one third of their presents online, up from about a quarter a year ago. Of these, one third will do some or most of their online shopping from their work computer, compared to 28pc who did some or most of their online shopping on a work computer last year. Most wired workers say they would have no worries or only some worries about using their work computer to buy year-end gifts.

Throughout the year workers pay little attention to net security, BSA said, with workers engaging in risky activities include downloading software that allows them to attend to their banking needs online and watching streaming video of sports events. Some 35pc of people surveyed revealed that they would spend a lot of time “surfing around the internet for fun by visiting news, sports and gossip sites” when unsupervised.

The impact of employee web surfing goes beyond decreasing productivity and security risks as valuable IT resources must be diverted from strategic activities to address the challenges of unauthorised online activity. A growing number of BSA’s enforcement investigations discover software is downloaded without the knowledge of a company’s management while employees surf the web.

“Many people access the internet at work with a specific job in mind: either checking their bank account, paying a utility bill, checking travel details or doing some shopping. Others have no specific intention: they surf the web to try to kill a few hours,” remarked John Wolfe, head of internet investigations at BSA.

“The worrying thing is this is the kind of activity that can lead to employees downloading software, tools or other copyright materials ‘for fun’, putting their PC at risk to viruses and spyware and leaving their employer liable for copyright infringement. We strongly advise employers to reinforce their internet usage policies during the holiday season and to remind employees of the company’s software management terms.”

By Niall Byrne