GFI Software and Opinion Matters found that employees used company devices for activities not related to work and had no qualms about stealing company intellectual property after they leave.
GFI Software and Opinion Matters found that employees used company devices for activities not related to work and had no qualms about stealing company intellectual property after they leave.

That fancy laptop all employees receive at the start of their employment? As it turns out they aren't using it solely for work-related activities, according to a new study from GFI Software and Opinion Matters.

During work hours, 36 percent of survey respondents use their computer to access social media, and 34 percent are online shopping, the survey said. When at home, 42 percent of respondents feel comfortable enough to use their computer to play online games, and 36 percent are using their company laptop to search for a new job.

To top it off, only 16 percent of employees check not-safe-for-work content both at work and home.

“People seem to understand that at work there's a little bit more protection,” said Sergio Galindo, general manager of GFI Software, in a Friday interview with SCMagazine.com. “They don't do riskier stuff at the office. They're doing riskier stuff (at home) and then bring this equipment that was exposed at home back to the office.”

Beyond possibly exposing their company's network to malicious material and bugs, the study also found that more than a third of employees admitted that they'd take more than cubicle supplies with them if they left a company; 35 percent of employees would also take company property, including email archives, confidential documents and other intellectual property from their work-owned computer before returning it.

Although this doesn't represent a majority of employees, Galindo said it should still be worrisome.

“Close to 36 percent is a big risk,” he said. “That's saying a third of your guys are going to walk out the door and take your most valuable assets.”

IT administrators should monitor employee's traffic to prevent intellectual property theft, Galindo went on to say that. For instance, if an administrator notices a large amount of information being transferred to the web, particularly to cloud-based sharing sites, it could be a sign of worrisome activity. Administrators should also keep an eye on email traffic, he said.

The survey also found that 90 percent of employees knew their company upheld a usage policy for company devices. Still, Galindo believes further education policies could ensure that employees are aware of the risk they're taking by using their company device for personal use.

“Make sure that people have and are aware that corporate policy is in place,” he said. “This a company piece of equipment, and if we lent you a car to use, you wouldn't go speeding in the car or take it cross-country. The same sort of respect they have for a car should be used for corporate equipment”