Big Brother’s watching the surf

The outlook for the Internet security software market in Asia Pacific is bright, with its explosive growth set to hit AU$2.5 billion (US$1.27 billion) by 2005, proving that Big Brother is still watching the desktop.

SYDNEY (ZDNet Australia)--The outlook for the Internet security software market in Asia Pacific is bright, with its explosive growth set to hit AU$2.5 billion (US$1.27 billion) by 2005, proving that Big Brother is still watching the desktop.

In the Authentication, Authorisation, and Administration (3A) segment--the fastest growing segment of the Internet security market--the Asia Pacific arena is expected to strike the AU$456 million (US$231 million) mark by the end of 2001, which compares to a worldwide market of AU$3.8 billion (US$1.93 billion), according to research company IDC.

The global market for Internet security software will rake in US$14.2 billion by 2005, according to IDC forecasts.

“When businesses see how immediately it [Internet security software] impacts their bottom line…they can really appreciate the value the software brings to the table and are not shy in investing in it,” MD of Internet filtering software provider SurfControl’s Australian arm, Charles Heunemann, told ZDNet.

Based on an organisation which has 100 workers with Internet access, Australian businesses are losing about AU$770,000 (US$390,620) in lost productivity a year, whilst Internet security software costs under AU$5000 (US$2,536) per 100 users, according to Heunemann.

Heunemann claims SurfControl’s business in Australia has “basically doubled” since last year and that it’s “swimming against the stream” of plummeting retail software sales since Australia’s period of slow economic growth.

Whilst Heunemann declined to disclose figures ahead of the company’s earnings report due in September, “analysts are forecasting that we will exceed our expectations when we make our financial announcement,” he said.

SurfControl claims to have seen an excellent response to programs that can be downloaded from the Internet to show employers the extent of cyberbludging in the corporate space. “It’s superseded the original targets set at the beginning of calendar year 2001,” Heunemann said.

The three main drivers leading businesses to monitor employees’ use of email and the Internet seem to be lost productivity, corporate liability and bandwidth limitations.

Cyberbludgers exposed
According to SurfControl’s Cyberbludging Report last year, a third of workers with Internet access use the Net to find their next job. Furthermore, employees hop online for shopping purposes or to look for their next place to live--and it takes on average three hours of research to make a purchasing decision.

Whilst still allowing workers to use email and the Internet for personal reasons, filtering software stops the “gross misuse” of these facilities, Heunneman said.

Privacy expert Tim Dixon says that there are five million employees in Australia with Internet access, spending on average an hour a day on the Net for personal reasons.

”There are quite amazing software products coming out of the US,” he said. “It’s certainly the case that employers are looking at time sheets and wondering how much time is lost to cyberbludging.

Partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Mark Sercombe, says cyberbludging is on the rise.

”As email in the workplace becomes more prevalent, people are using it more for personal reasons,” Sercombe said. “Because email volumes are increasing we’re getting more people being picked up for using email for private purposes.

The important thing for businesses to remember is that they should have policies in place to let employees know that their use of the Internet and electronic messaging is being monitored.

However, only one in ten large organisations in Australia have an “adequate” policy in place whilst medium-sized businesses have “no real definition of what can [and can’t] be done using email,” Sercombe said.

Although it touts its products as a way to clamp down on cyberbludging, SurfControl agrees that companies are better off telling employees that they’re being monitored.

“We at SurfControl advocate the Federal Privacy Commissioner’s guidelines on employee Internet and email monitoring,” Hauermann said. However, ”Internet security breaches cost businesses around the world close to US$15 billion a year…it is therefore not surprising that the market for security software is exploding”.

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