Laptop users pose the greatest risk to business IT security, and more than half have never heard of dangers such as spyware.
According to research firm Dynamic Markets' latest Laptop Liabilities survey, which questioned over 500 users in Europe, the spread of malicious code and spyware is being fuelled by laptop users downloading non-work related software.
Workers also admitted to surfing peer-to-peer sites and allowing people outside work to use their laptops.
In the UK, 73 per cent said they use a laptop as their main computer, 62 per cent said they have never heard of spyware.
"These figures could be the tip of the iceberg. The real figures could be much higher because many users don't want to own up," said Mark Murtagh, technical director at Websense EMEA, which commissioned the survey.
"The developing trend is that SMEs are buying laptops as the sole computer for employees, so this freedom in working perhaps puts SMEs at the most risk."
In Europe, 74 per cent admitted downloading content without reading the terms and conditions, while only 45 per cent of businesses actively manage internet access on employee laptops.
The survey also found that there is still "massive ignorance" surrounding spyware and that increasing numbers of businesses risk legal proceedings over copyright theft and illegal downloads.
"The UK was better at some levels of protection than other countries, but generally the UK has a slightly higher awareness of the potential problems caused by spyware," said Murtagh.
Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of IT security distributor Wick Hill, agreed that many businesses are wide open to problems caused by laptop users. "The figures sound depressingly correct, many businesses put IT policies in place but don't actively enforce them."
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