The amount of employees who attempt to download illegal software and music at work has increased by 55 per cent.

ScanSafe has revealed that this increased over the past three months, as high-speed internet connections have enabled even faster illegal downloads. Often, an employer will be held legally responsible for any wrongful acts committed by an employee ‘in the course of their employment'.

Even if a legal claim is unsuccessful, dealing with claims can make very substantial demands on management time and involve significant legal costs.

Spencer Parker, director of product management at ScanSafe, said: “Employees mistakenly assume they can use the internet at work in exactly the same way as they use it at home and this is potentially one of the reasons for this steady increase in illegal download attempts over recent months. Inappropriate internet use in the workplace can put the employer at risk for legal liabilities.

“Downloading illegal content is a ‘double whammy' for employers as not only does it put them at risk legally but it also puts the company network at risk of being infected with malware. A large majority of free illegal downloading websites are often riddled with malware.”

Parker recommended formulating internet usage policies and educating employees on the goals of their policies, including making the potential consequences of non-compliance clear. He also encouraged employers to require staff to sign an agreement to acknowledge their understanding of acceptable web use during working hours.