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Computer misuse costs companies millions

For Immediate Release

From Computer Troubleshooters

August, 2005

Computer misuse costs companies millions : One employee added $2800 to his employer's Jetstream bill by downloading music

Computer Troubleshooter's Dave Mudford knows of at least one New Zealand example where an employee's computer misuse clocked up an Internet bill of almost $3000 for excessive bandwidth use. The junior employee, who worked for a small business, was downloading music.

Dave Mudford can also recount an overseas case where an employee had played 27,000 games of solitaire on her company computer. Instead of working, she was playing the game for up to six hours a day.

This type of computer misuse costs New Zealand businesses millions of dollars each year in lost productivity and service bills, says Dave Mudford, regional director of Computer Troubleshooters. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable, as many do not have an information technology expert or department.

"Apart from the fact that employees are wasting valuable time, there are other real dollar costs, in terms of bandwidth use and cleaning computers which have become infected with viruses, spyware and adware," he says. "Many employers know less about computers than their employees do. They trust their employees, but often have no idea how they are actually using their computers."

Queenstown-based computer troubleshooter Mike McNeil agrees that computer misuse by employees is extremely common, to varying degrees. He frequently finds the popular trade sites TradeMe and eBay on the 'favourites' list of business computers, with some employees wasting valuable work time buying and selling online. He also often sees employees playing videos and games on their work computers.

Mike McNeil says probably the worst case he has encountered is the small business employee who clocked up a $2800 Jetstream bill - he had been downloading music and burning it to CD. After being forewarned there would an investigation into the cause of the excessive bandwidth use, the employee deleted the music from the PC. However, a data recovery scan found the deleted files, and the employee admitted his guilt.

"He wasted many, many hours, which is what the employer was most disappointed about. I would estimate he spent about two full days each week searching for and downloading music," Mike McNeil says.

Amazingly, the employee worked in an open-plan office with his employer and two other staff, who had noticed nothing other than a drop-off in the employee's performance.

File-sharing software, such as Kazza or LimeWire, which is commonly used to download MP3 files, also makes the network dangerously vulnerable to outside attacks. Mike McNeil says these file-sharing programmes are the second most common way of picking up viruses, after email. Surfing inappropriate websites, particularly pornographic ones, may also introduce spyware, viruses and other 'nasties', slowing down the network.

Dave Mudford says the best defence for companies is prevention. There must be a policy in place which fully outlines computer and Internet use. Employees need to be fully aware of this, so it should be in writing and part of the employee's agreement.

Ideally, this will be followed up by monitoring, with staff being told that their computer use can be traced.

In addition to appropriate Internet access policies, Computer Troubleshooters recommends companies contract a commercial Internet access control service to block all inappropriate and unproductive web browsing. Typically, this costs about $6 per employee a month.

"It's basically commonsense. Make sure employees know what is expected of them, and control Internet usage," Dave Mudford concludes." And if you're suspicious, get an expert in straight away. Internet abuse can cost thousands of dollars, plus loss of activity, which can seriously damage small businesses."


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