Non-Work Cyber Surfing Still Rampant

July 30, 2004 ( - Employees with unfettered Internet access continue to surf the Web for non-business purposes while at work for everything from porn to shopping - in the process wasting an estimated nine days per year.

A survey by two computer security firms, Cerberian and SonicWALL, found that half of respondents confessed to spending more than 10% of their office hours online for non-work reasons, which the study said was equal to about four hours per week.

Part of the online diversion for some employees, according to the online survey of 2,400 people, was “accidental” contact with porn Web sites via pop-up windows (55%), misrepresented links (52%), misspelled URLs (48%) and e-mailed auto links (23%).

However 16% of respondents confessed to deliberately surfing to porn sites from their office computer while four in 10 said they’ve seen colleagues do so. Not only that, 32% said they’ve seen workers at gambling sites, more than nine in 10 said they’ve spotted co-workers doing online shopping, and 85% said they’ve seen colleagues on sports-related sites.

After spotting this non-work surfing, 68% said their colleagues’ porn surfing bugged them while 47% of those were bothered enough to call it to the offender’s attention or go over their head to management. Some 59% said they didn’t care for office time spent gambling online while 35% didn’t care to see co-workers shop from their office computers and 29% thought sports surfing was unsportsmanlike.

Asked what non-work sites they go to, respondents listed:

  • news, 56%
  • research, 44%
  • web e-mail portals, 40%
  • online banking, 33%
  • shopping, 27%.

The two companies repeated oft-heard warnings among cyber-security experts that firms without Internet usage policies face potential legal liability issues ranging from sexual harassment to permitting workers to violate copyright laws. Some 59% of respondents said their employer didn’t have office Internet restrictions.

“It is clear from the survey that there is a growing awareness among individuals as well as organizations of the problems resulting from unregulated employee Internet access,” said Matthew Medeiros, SonicWALL chief executive officer. “While pornography is obviously the biggest concern, other surfing habits, from shopping to sports, are absorbing an increasing amount of employee attention inside organizations. The potential for legal troubles and lost productivity, as well as security concerns and the abuse of network resources, will continue to mount unless businesses formulate and enforce Internet access policies and internal controls.”

The report is available at .