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ImageSecure at your work station? Well, here's news for you. In a recent survey, a sizeable 35 per cent of IT professionals admitted to snooping around their colleagues and a whopping 74 per cent said they accessed information that wasn't relevant to them at all.

And, a majority of employees are in complete agreement with this survey. Starts off process engineer Ashish Kumar from CTS, "Snooping is there at all levels. These days, you can't even leave your mailbox unattended, because I've had friends who have had important mails deleted. In fact, I hear some people from certain other companies even sell confidential information to others for a price."

Systems analyst Deepa George at TCS adds, "People go through others' letters and correspondences and log on to systems belonging to others. They misuse and mishandle data. If these snoopers leak information from your mailbox, you can get pulled up by the authorities. So if you aren't extremely cautious about your password, you're pretty much done for it!"

The study found that the things that are most pried around for are customer databases, salary details, layoff lists and marketing information.
So, what are the common snooping techniques that these nosy Parkers adopt? Project manager Anagha Suresh reveals, "Pretending to not listen to a telephone conversation, when they actually are and glancing at neighbours' PCs when they open important mails are very common. Going through material that may be placed on a colleague's desk and reading printouts that belong to others but are still in the printer tray are also rampant."

But, why have the rates of snooping risen? Have our IT professionals been simply bitten hard by the curiosity cat, or does the recession have anything to do with it? Deepa picks the latter, "In the current job scenario, we are an insecure lot. The competition is insane; there is a constant need to stay ahead. We work in huge organisations. There is a need to be different and for that, you need to know something extra."
And rightly enough, the survey has revealed that people spy and pry to gain a competitive edge and corporate security.

Sociologist Shalini George infers, "It is human tendency to be curious about your neighbour's life. But the recession has caused extreme anxiety. It is bringing out the worst in everyone. The tendency to dig unwanted information and put others in trouble has increased. There is a lot of apprehension about job cuts; people want to ensure their jobs are not at stake."

But what are the consequences of such activities? "Well, among others, you will lose your job if your seniors even so much as get a whiff of your seedy actions! And secondly, you are infringing on privacy. That is wrong at all levels. People will stop trusting you and will avoid you. Also, this can develop into an addiction," warns Shalini.

So, what can be done to avoid such situations? Anagha briefs, "A clean-desk policy should be adopted. Also, there should be secluded meeting rooms, paper shredders near printers, password protected PCs that lock if unattended for five minutes and most importantly, personal integrity."

As for keeping such perpetrators at bay, Ashish offers, "Always look over your shoulder. Don't give your password even to those you count as friends. Always lock your desk and leave nothing on your table."

However, systems administrator Ramesh R feels that this survey is just an exaggeration. "People snoop around only for fun. We are intelligent enough to not jeopardise our careers by doing such things," he opines.

And as for those who are guilty as charged, Deepa laughs, "Pinocchio, you might not be; but nose around too much and it will be there for everyone to see!"