Web security company ScanSafe has published its latest monthly Global Threat Report that looks at corporate usage of the web. The results should not be shocking as we all know that if you give someone free access to the Internet at work then they will abuse that access if at all possible, but shocking they are nonetheless. By analysing the data from its web traffic scanning and blocking security as a service offering, ScanSafe is able to tap into the web working habits of the world.

In fact, according to ScanSafe, some 49 percent of all web traffic scanned and blocked during the course of February was classified as non-productive. OK, so that could account for pretty much anything some workers do, but the reality is that it is not just the usual slacker suspects we are talking about here. The numbers are too high for that. Instead the report suggests that nearly half the time spent online at work is doing things not only with nothing at all to do with the job, but often things that could lead to employee dismissal. A relatively high, in the scheme of things, 4 percent of time was spent browsing pornographic sites, and another 4 percent each for gambling and music downloads. Moving up the activity blocking ladder you find webmail on 10 percent, IM on 12 percent and advertising top of the tree on 14 percent.

Of these, perhaps the most worrying is the gambling figure as it shows a rise of some 22 percent from the previous month. As ScanSafe VP Dan Nadir told me “beyond the negative impact on productivity, uncontrolled use of the Web can have serious and costly consequences for businesses of all sizes including exposure to legal liability, disclosure of confidential information, breaches of compliance requirements and unnecessary bandwidth consumption.”

I would also be concerned about the number of workers using personal IM clients, especially when you consider that ScanSafe blocked 24 newly identified IM security threats in February, of which 54 percent hit MSN Messenger, 21 percent Yahoo and 17 percent AIM. MSN Messenger retains its position as the IM platform targeted by most threats, with 53 some percent of all IM based threats blocked by ScanSafe hit it. By way of comparison, 41 percent overall attacked AIM and 29 percent Yahoo.

Slightly better news is that there was a marginal decline in malware during February, with web viruses all but unchanged and spyware/adware blocks going down by 2 percent. “Historically, we see a jump in Web malware in January followed by a slight drop in February” Nadir said. “Attackers know that malware may have a better chance of being propagated following the New Year when many users are returning from the holiday and haven’t patched their PCs. This seasonality usually corrects itself and we tend to see a steady increase in malware, particularly spyware, as the year progresses.”

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