The shifting boundaries between work and home life mean staff at many small businesses are unwittingly putting their employers at risk of cyber-attack. 82% of small business employees use work time for personal matters, over a third of them for more than two hours a day, according to a survey carried out by TalkTalk Business.




TalkTalk Business surveyed 1,000 small business employees, of whom over 70% admit taking work home on evenings and weekends, clocking up an average of 1.7 hours each day. With business commitments creeping into personal time, the vast majority of employees (82%) are redressing the balance themselves by also catering to personal needs at work. Given that less than half of respondents feel they can spot obvious scams, this blurring of work and personal life has the potential to cause security headaches.


Modern scams are extremely complex, and men appear less confident in their ability to identify them than women: 40% of men say they’re easily able to recognise threats online, compared to 50% of women. Somewhat ironically, employees in IT and telecoms are the least confident in their ability to spot risky content. This could be because they are often technically—trained and understand the complexity of modern viruses, therefore, are less likely to underestimate them.


Checking the news, shopping online and “life admin”—tasks like booking travel or online banking—are the most common activities done on a work computer. While some respondents acknowledge the threat these actions could pose, the majority seem unaware: just under a third, 32%, said shopping online while at work may be risky to the business, and only a quarter believe streaming music or video poses a danger to the company.


“The traditional 9-5 is a fallacy," said Charles Bligh, Managing Director of TalkTalk Business. “For many people, work no longer ends at the office door, it continues on the train home or after picking up the kids from school.


“That flexibility has to work both ways. It isn’t surprising to see people catering to their own personal needs in office hours, but security solutions need to evolve to reflect that change of behavior. Malicious content is getting more advanced and harder to spot–we only need to look at recent malware targeting the NHS or Yahoo! for proof of that.”