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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Spying software watches you work
A pair of binoculars, Eyewire
Spyware watches you from a distance
Spyware has infected almost all companies polled for a survey about web-using habits at work.

Nine out of 10 of the technology managers questioned said machines at their firm had programs that spied on the browsing habits of staff.

The computer staff estimated that, on average, 29% of work PCs had spyware surreptitiously installed on them.

By contrast only 6% of users questioned believed that the machine they use had been infected by such software.

Browsing risk

The figures came to light during the annual Web@Work survey commissioned by mail filtering and security firm Websense.

Spyware is the name given to small programs that accompany popular applications such as the Kazaa and Morpheus file-sharing software.

As the name implies the software surreptitiously keeps an eye on what a user is interested in or searches for.

Cup of coffee, BBC
Some people need caffeine more than the net
Once installed the spyware can redirect web searches, install bookmarks or bombard a user with pop-up ads tailored to other search terms.

"Most employees don't even know they are infected;" said Peter Firstbrook, analyst at the Meta Group

He said spyware could be a nuisance, an invasion of privacy and, in the case of the most malicious spyware, can steal confidential information.

Other sections of the Web@Work survey reveal just how this spyware may have made its way onto work PCs.

Of the PC users who took part in the survey, 22% of men questioned said they had looked at a pornographic website while at work, and 2% of all those questioned said they looked at hacking sites.

Technology managers said 10% of the total storage space in a workplace is taken up by non-work related items such as video clips, music tracks, images and other files.

The survey found that employees spend, on average, about two hours per week surfing the web for personal, rather than work, reasons.

By contrast, technology managers believed that this personal surfing took up more than six hours per week.

The survey also revealed how important access to the net at work has become to many people.

When asked if people would rather give up personal surfing or their morning coffee the respondents were split almost equally.

49% said they would rather lose morning coffee, but 46% said they needed their java more than their browsing fix.


SEE ALSO:
PCs 'infested' with spy programs
16 Apr 04  |  Technology
Windows XP security gets tighter
31 Mar 04  |  Technology
Web hijacker snares victims
31 Jan 03  |  Technology
The spy inside your home computer
25 Nov 02  |  dot life
PC users 'fail security tests'
21 Apr 04  |  Technology


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