Nearly two-thirds of employees admit to opening emails with suspicious content, with a third forwarding it on to friends and colleagues - and IT staff are the worst offender, according to a survey.
The survey of 715 professionals across different industries was carried out by NOP for content filtering company SurfControl.
It found staff were unable to resist the temptation of emails that may contain sexist, racist, discriminatory or pornographic content, despite the fact 67 per cent recognised emails from a work address can carry the same legal weight as a letter on headed company paper.
Steve Purdham, chief executive of SurfControl, said that grass roots education and a clearly defined acceptable use policy should be adopted by companies to minimise their exposure.
"It is endemic across the board. You can't manage it just by putting pieces of paper together and locking them in a handbook. It has to be built into the culture of the organisation," he said.
The survey also found that IT staff are the worst offenders, with 69 per cent likely to open dubious emails at work, and 42 per cent willing to forward them on to work colleagues and friends.
"Workers across the field are still prepared to send offensive emails at work that could result in disciplinary and legal action, as well as create negative publicity for the business or department," said Purdham.
One of the disturbing trends discovered by SurfControl in recent weeks is instances of unsolicited junk mail with links to paedophile websites.
But spam containing advertising and marketing scams is one of the fastest growing problems on the corporate network, with anti-spam software company Brightmail recording 4,971,097 attacks on its clients in July.
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