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Spam a workplace threat? Be serious

More than half of users surveyed say unsolicited e-mail is not a problem at work. Their IT managers disagree.

More than half of U.S. computer users think that their company's current spam situation is under control, according to a survey.

The report, released on Tuesday by software security maker Symantec, found that 50.8 percent of end users believe that spam is not an issue at work. Approximately 68.2 percent said their company has been able to curb junk e-mail.

However, these results were in contrast to information technology managers' impression of the problem.

"I was surprised to find such a high percentage of end users think things are under control," said Chris Miller, a Symantec group product manager. "IT managers see it as a larger problem. They do a lot of things behind the scenes, and end users are the ones to reap the benefits."

For example, a majority of IT managers, 79.1 percent, found spam to be a problem in the workplace. About 56.4 percent of IT managers surveyed said that despite the problem, their current situation is under control.

"For the most part, IT managers say they have it under control," Miller said. "They're doing their live updates. They're scanning, but it's still a problem for the organization. They're saying, 'I still have to dedicate manpower to it. I'm still updating our rules.'"

Nearly 42 percent of IT managers said spam makes up 25 percent to 40 percent of the e-mail that comes into their networks. And as a result of that volume, it costs companies time and resources, they said.

A loss in employee productivity, IT productivity and server storage are some of the results of spam, IT managers said. Nearly 83 percent of IT managers said employee productivity was affected, while 70 percent cited a loss in IT work.

IT managers also expect instant-message spam, or "spim," to be a growing problem that they will have to deal with in the future. A majority of IT managers, 53.6 percent, say it's an issue they'll be dealing with in 2007. The majority of IT managers, 76.4 percent, do not regard spim as an immediate problem, however. In part, that may be due to the low percentage of employees who use IM in the workplace. Only 30 percent of employees use IM at work, according to the study.

The report surveyed 110 IT managers and 299 end users in North America.