Survey shows opinion gap on spam

A study commissioned by Symantec Corp. to gauge opinion about the spam problem among IT managers and their user community points to a difference in views about how bad the volumes of unsolicited mail really are these days.

The survey results were released Monday at the NetSec Conference and questioned 110 North American IT managers and 300 of their end users. The survey showed almost 80 percent of the IT managers said they regard spam as a workplace problem. However, about half the users said they didn't see spam as a problem at all.

In addition, about 59 percent of the IT managers said spam has increased significantly over the last year, but only about 35 percent of end users felt the same. About 57 percent of IT managers - but about 68 percent of end users - said the current spam situation was under control in their organizations.

The one thing both sides seemed to be in agreement about is that they're equally skeptical about the impact of government legislation on spam.

The wide difference in opinions between IT managers and the user population about the problem of spam caught Symantec by surprise. The survey also suggests, though, that spam takes a back seat to the threat of worms and viruses, which sometimes ride in on spam.

About 71 percent of end users and 82 percent of IT managers think worms and viruses will get worse in the future. The IT managers overwhelmingly said they consider viruses and worms the primary "message-related problem they will likely be dealing with in 2007."

The Symantec survey also asked about spam received via instant messaging, which is sometimes called spim.

About 70 percent of the end users said they don't use instant messaging at work. But 22 percent of those who do said they do get spim regularly, with 45 of those instant messaging users reporting they've seen a dramatic increase in spim over the past six months.

Some end users admitted they sometimes respond to spam. While 82 percent of the end users claim to have never responded to an offer that came through spam, about 18 percent said they had done so on one or more occasions and about 7 percent had responded to a spam offer that turned out to be fraudulent.

From the IT manager's point of view, spam takes up a lot of bandwidth. About 33 percent in IT said spam makes up between 10 percent and 20 percent of their company's e-mail traffic. Nearly 20 percent said spam accounts for between 21 percent and 30 percent of e-mail and about 22 percent of IT managers said spam constitutes between 31 percent and 40 percent of the total.

About 17 percent of IT managers said their IT staff spends most of its time dealing with spam.

The survey also asked IT managers their views on spyware, the broad category of application programs that can do everything from track Web-site use to report on it for marketing purposes to malicious code such as keystroke loggers that capture sensitive financial and personal information for criminal purposes. Fifty-nine percent of IT managers said spyware is a problem to their organization's security. About the same number also saw "phishing" - fake Web sites set up to capture user data, such as passwords to accounts after the user is lured to the site by fake e-mail - as a "moderate to severe problem" that gets their attention.

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