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Risky Employee E-Mail Habits Threaten Business

A new survey shows at-work e-mail usage may be exposing businesses to legal problems, with employees not realizing they're doing anything risky.

InformationWeek Staff

November 16, 2005

2 Min Read

Before you hit send, you may want to think twice about the content of your e-mail.

A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Fortiva, shows a substantial discrepancy between employees’ perceived and actual risks. Results of the survey show that 68 percent of U.S. employees who use e-mail at work have sent or received e-mail via their work e-mail account that could place their company at risk. Despite this, 92 percent of these employees do not believe they have ever sent a risky e-mail.

The Harris survey, which examined the e-mail habits of more than 1,000 individuals who use e-mail at work, uncovered a number of issues that should raise concerns for businesses.

A majority of employees who use e-mail at work (61 percent) admit they have used e-mail at work for personal use. Results also show that nearly half (48 percent) say they have sent or received joke e-mails, funny pictures/movies, funny stories of a questionable tone. And 22 percent say they have sent or received a password or log-in information via e-mail.

While 73 percent of the respondents indicated that they are aware of corporate e-mail policies, less than half (46 percent) claimed they always adhere to the policy.

Another concern is the way that employees are storing their e-mail. While 41 percent indicated they would prefer to keep important e-mails indefinitely, most businesses place limits on the amount of e-mail that can be stored. And such limitations may be leading to practices that could jeopardize security. The survey reported that half the respondents have saved e-mail outside the corporate network.

Additional findings showed that employees who earn over $75,000 a year are more likely to save work-related e-mail outside of the company’s network; nine percent of the respondents have used company e-mail to submit their resume to another company; and 22 percent have sent personal details to the HR department, including Social Security numbers, salary details, or medical information via e-mail.

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