Small businesses are most likely candidates for risky online behavior

Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in Internet content security, has reported that in the U.S., UK, Germany, and Japan, employees in small companies took more online risks while on the company network compared to their counterparts in larger organizations. This is the result of a study that explores corporate computer users' perceptions of and experiences with security threats.

The study, which surveyed usage habits of 1,600 corporate end users in the U.S., UK, Germany, and Japan, found that certain risky activities such as browsing Web sites unrelated to work, making online purchases, visiting social networking sites, downloading executable files, and checking personal Web-based e-mail were more likely to take place in small businesses.

For example, 32 percent of small business employees in the UK have admitted to downloading executable files that can potentially lead to Trojan or virus attacks and, ultimately, identity and data theft. Checking personal e-mail is the most popular non-work related online activity for German workers – 70 percent of small-business employees do this at work, compared to 59 percent of those in large companies. In Japan, the study revealed that most of the personal Internet activities stated above were more likely to occur in small businesses.

Despite a higher level of risky online behavior taking place, only about 50 percent or fewer end users within small companies said they had an IT department, which may explain why spam, phishing, and spyware were more commonly reported within these companies compared to larger ones. The survey found that:

  • In all countries surveyed, spam is more commonly reported among end users in smaller organizations: 82 percent of U.S. small business employees have reported spam; 80 percent in the UK; 83 percent in Germany; and 73 percent in Japan.

  • In the UK, phishing is more commonly reported among end users in smaller organizations and the number of reported attacks has steadily increased since 2005. This year, 50 percent of small business end users reported attacks.

  • In U.S. and Japan, spyware is more commonly reported among end users in smaller organizations. Thirty-six percent of U.S. small business employees have reported spyware encounters (compared to 26 percent in large companies); in Japan, it was 17 percent for small companies and 10 percent for large ones.

    In all countries surveyed, small organizations are less likely to have preventative policies in place than large companies. This probably explains why the survey found that small company end users in Japan are less aware of what type of company data is confidential compared to end users in larger Japanese organizations. Only 33 percent of small business end users said they were aware of what constitutes confidential company data compared to 46 percent from large companies. This held true for users in both the U.S. and the UK as well, but the disparity was less.

    "These survey results tell me that small businesses often lack the resources and manpower to maintain complicated security solutions but still need security that is comprehensive and effective at battling the multiple Internet-related threats that could compromise their networks and put their business at risk," said Steve Quane, executive general manager, SMB business unit, Trend Micro. "Trend Micro recently launched a new line of Worry-Free Security Solutions specifically designed for small businesses who need multi-layered, multi-threat, 24/7 security. That way, small business owners know that even if their employees are using the Web for personal use, their network and business are still protected."

    For this survey, small businesses are defined as companies with under 500 employees in the U.S., UK, and Germany. In Japan, small businesses are defined as companies with under 250 employees. A total of 800 computer users from small companies across the U.S., UK, Germany, and Japan were surveyed.

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