Businesses exposed to hidden dangers of the internet

European businesses are leaving themselves and their employees open to attack from the hidden dangers of the internet, according to new research.


Of the 500 European work laptop users surveyed by internet software company Websense, many are exposing their companies to legal and financial damage, as well as leaving themselves vulnerable to their personal data being captured.


Among the findings, employees admit to downloading non work-related software and allowing people outside of work to use their laptops, and many are using their laptops to surf peer-to-peer websites and download illegal music files and movies.


According to Websense, these activities unwittingly allow the spread of malicious code such as viruses and spyware, and pose corporate security risks when the laptop is connected to the network.


Just over half of the companies surveyed manage internet access on laptops, but only a quarter enforce this, and 30 per cent rely on their employees adhering to written policies.


The fact that employees are downloading software remotely means that any network-based security measures are rendered useless, exposing business and personal data to key-loggers, hackers and phishing – where users are encouraged to email their bank details – attacks.


Key findings include:


– Untraceable users: Almost half of workers admit that people outside of work access their laptop, with 22 per cent having no idea who actually uses it and what they use it for


– Dangerous downloads: 86 per cent of employees admit to downloading ‘non-work’ software when out of the office


– Breaking the law: Only one in 10 people care that their company may face prosecution for breach of copyright caused by them downloading illegal music files and movies


– ‘Drive-by’ downloads: – 74 per cent admit to not always reading the terms and conditions when downloading software from the internet


– The burden of responsibility: 35 per cent of workers feel that the IT department is responsible for what ends up on their laptop while it is used at home


Geoff Haggart, European vice-president for Websense said: “Our survey shows that mobile workers are unaware of many of the hidden dangers of the internet. Companies need to educate and empower employees to ensure they are able to make conscious decisions to ensure safer surfing on their laptops – both in the office and at home.”


 

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