Most UK workers are putting IT networks at risk

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 05:28 am

  • 49% of UK office workers are visiting sites or opening email attachments that could cause a virus, malware or ransomware
  • 9 in 10 British workers admit to regularly wasting work time doing online activities such as shopping, dating or looking for new job
  • Small minority of British workers are engaging in illicit behavior such as attempting to access secure servers or view ‘inappropriate’ content

Nearly half of working Brits are visiting sites or opening email attachments that could cause a virus, malware or ransomware attack, according to a new UK-wide study commissioned for strategic IT consultancy, Aura Technology*. The anonymous poll of 2,000 office workers also found that 29% have already caused a virus, malware or ransomware attack at work by accident.

The external poll was run to discover what the average British office worker gets up to on their work PC (other than work for their employer) during office hours.

Viruses such as malware (software that disrupts, damages, or gain unauthorised access to a system) and ransomware can be devastating for businesses. Ransomware blocks access to a computer system or files until a sum of money is paid to the perpetrator. In June this year, a ransomware attack hit 22,000 computers across 170 different sites at global aluminium producer, Norsk Hydro, forcing its entire workforce to use pen and paper to run the business. Ransomware is commonly introduced when files that are attached to phishing emails are unwittingly downloaded to the machine.


Top 10 things UK office workers admit to regularly doing on their employer’s PCs (while at work)

1 Having planned personal leisure time activities or online shopping 90%
2 Opened an email attachment or clicked on a link that introduced a virus, malware or ransomware 49%
3 Spending time on social media sites (not for work) 43%
4 Sending communications or materials to colleagues, friends or partners that your boss wouldn’t approve of 40%
5 Looking for new job opportunities 36%
6 Downloading or streaming content (e.g. on your personal Netflix account or on BBC iPlayer) unrelated to work 21%
7 Accidentally emailing a message about a colleague to that person 15%
8 Spending time on dating sites (not for work) 12%
9 Viewing crude or inappropriate content 9%
10 Trying to gain access to your company’s secure servers 8%


The study also found that the majority of workers regularly spend business hours doing personal activities on their work computers, such as shopping, watching television shows or even dating. 90% shop online or plan leisure activities, 43% using social media, 36% search for new job opportunities, 21% regularly watch television shows and 12% flirt with potential partners on dating sites such as or Plenty of Fish.

Many working Brits could also benefit from brushing up on their internal communications skills, as the survey found that 40% use their work computers to send messages that their boss wouldn’t approve of’. 15% even admitted to having accidently sent a message about a colleague (intended for a third party) to that person. A minority of British workers also engaged in more illicit behaviour on their work computers; 9% attempted to find ‘crude’ or ‘inappropriate’ content and 8% had made an attempt to gain access to private files.

“It’s concerning that so many workers are opening email attachments or visiting sites that could cause a virus, malware or ransomware. Good firewalls and antivirus software should prevent many of these attacks, however they can’t stop every virus, ‘invisible’ malware attacks or ransomware where employees unwittingly download ‘trojan horse’ files. Our advice to workers is to make sure that they regularly update their antivirus software and to think twice before opening an attachment or visiting an unknown site. Considering the poll’s results, some employers may also want to review their policies on internal communications and how employees are permitted to use their work PCs for personal use,” said Tim Walker, Managing Director.

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