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From malware to shopping: what does computer usage at work really look like?

Laptop and notebook

Has it ever crossed your mind what your employees may be using their work computers for other than work? Or perhaps you have a tendency to look for your next weekend away yourself using your work laptop? In today’s digital age, we are becoming more reliant than ever before on technology, whether that’s for work, leisure, shopping and pretty much anything else you can think of.

The convenience of using laptops, PCs, mobiles and tablets to get stuff done is attractive; why would you want fight the shopping crowds on a Saturday when you can leisurely peruse retail sites on a Monday evening, and have your new outfit arrive within a couple of days?

Off the back of this intriguing thought, we decided to delve into the world of computer usage at work, by asking 2,000 UK office workers about what they’re using their work computers for. Here are our findings…

A little background on our survey question and answers

Here’s what we asked: Thinking about using your computer at work, which, if any, of these have you done? [Tick all that apply].

Here are the answers we offered:

  • Clicked on a link to crude or inappropriate content
  • Clicked on a link which introduced a virus/ malware
  • Spent time on social media sites (not for work)
  • Spent time on dating sites (not for work)
  • Deleted files or otherwise lost important company data
  • Fallen victim to a ransomware attack
  • Sent communications or materials to colleagues that your boss wouldn’t approve of
  • Sent communications or materials to friends or partners (outside the firm) that your boss wouldn’t approve of
  • Accidentally emailed a message about someone to that person
  • Gone online to shop or book tickets (e.g.) for non-work travel or entertainment
  • Looked for new job opportunities
  • Planned personal leisure time activities
  • Run personal errands using the internet
  • Deliberately viewed inappropriate or crude material
  • Replied to a bogus email or online scam
  • Clicked on a link from a bogus email or online scam
  • Tried to gain illicit access to your company’s secure servers
  • Downloaded or streamed content illegally
  • Downloaded or streamed content legally (e.g. on your personal Netflix account or on BBC iPlayer), but unrelated to work
  • Other computer ‘no-no’
  • None of these
  • Does not apply (e.g. don’t have a work computer)

What did we discover about social use?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, using a work computer for social activities is a popular admission, with planning personal leisure time activities or online shopping coming in at the top of our poll at a staggering 90%.

You’ve then got the lure of social media, of which 43% stated they’d checked in on their personal accounts using their work PC. This is perhaps less surprising; we’d even assume that this percentage will continue to rise with social media being a fully established part of everyday life for most people.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter usage are closely followed by sending comms to colleagues, friends or partners (which you know your boss wouldn’t approve of), sitting at a fairly high 40%. Whether that’s GIFs, reminders, gossip or general chit chat, two in five of us are doing it!

Moving onto less common social confessions, 21% cited having downloaded or streamed content online (think Netflix, ITV Player, etc.), and 12% of the 2,000 employees asked said they’d spent time scrolling through online dating sites such as Plenty of Fish and Match.com.

How many of us are putting our employer’s IT systems at risk of malware or viral attacks?

When it comes to viruses, ransomware and other general malware, unfortunately every now and again an unsolicited email will make its way in your inbox, and the user will unknowingly click the link or open the attachment. Viruses come in many forms, some with comedic intent, but most can be truly detrimental to the business through disrupting or damaging the system.

Our poll revealed that nearly half of those surveyed (49%) have visited websites or opened email attachments in the past that caused malware to saturate their system. Although having a well-managed IT service in place is crucial to securing systems, here are some common tell-tale signs that you’ve received an unwelcome email:

  • The content is bizarre or is too good to be true – in which case, it probably is.
  • Embedded links have strange URLs – check the destination URL before you click the link to see if it looks odd. If in doubt, don’t click!
  • The sender address isn’t quite right – check to see if the sender’s email address matches the company name. If it doesn’t, the chances are it’s not legitimate.
  • Bad grammar or the content doesn’t make much sense in general.

What about inappropriate use?

Although only a small percentage, it’s also important to note the statistics which detail inappropriate behaviour. Our survey highlighted that 15% have previously accidentally sent a message about a colleague to that person when it was intended for someone else.

There’s also a small minority (9%) who admitted to having attempted to access content described as ‘crude’ or ‘inappropriate’.

Although sending an email to someone it was not intended for is not deemed professional, and in most cases is unfortunately down to old-fashioned human error, there are measures which can be put into place to stop access to harmful or potentially dangerous content. For example, at Aura Technology, we offer comprehensive strategy solutions where we would work with you to identify exactly what your business requirements are and put a plan in place to protect and serve your business efficiently.

The top 10 survey answers

Computer usage at work graph

For employers… Concerned about employees using work computers for personal endeavours?

Although you’re not going to want to spend your days checking up on how your employees are using their PCs, the good news is there are some things you can put in place which will help you to keep your business safe and secure…

What can Aura help with?

Here at Aura Technology, we can support you and your business in a variety of different ways. Our clear vision of proactive IT services paths the way for us work with you with to build and manage thorough IT strategies and connectivity solutions, all the way through to software development and integration, all with 24-hour support.

Get in contact with us if you want to learn more about how we can protect and serve your business.