Half of the Fortune 500 companies have dealt with at least one incident related to computer porn in the workplace over the past 12 months, according to a new survey. Corporations are taking the problem seriously, with offenders being fired in 44 percent of the cases or being disciplined in a further 41 percent of the instances - although that still leaves 15 percent of offenders getting away with it.

The survey was conducted last month by Atlanta-based market research company Delta Consulting on behalf of Irish image monitoring software vendor PixAlert International. Researchers polled 50 executives from 50 of the Fortune 500 in industries, including manufacturing, retail, health care, banking/financial services and telecoms.

Seventy-four percent of those polled were fully aware of the legal ramifications of computer porn in the workplace, that such images can form the basis for employee claims of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. However, only 54 percent of executives would describe themselves as being totally cognisant that the first point of call for attorneys looking for evidence in such cases is a company's computer records in terms of Internet usage, e-mail traffic and images on hard drives.

All the companies surveyed had a formal computer usage policy in place, with 74 percent of them saying that their policy goes beyond Internet and e-mail use. Ninety percent of those polled have instituted procedures to handle the discovery of inappropriate computer images. Most firms (80 percent) said they have technology in place to manage content on their computers. There was a vast array of different software cited with no clear market leader and only 43 percent of the executives questioned said their software operated at both the network gateway and desktop levels.

Companies believe that future threats involving harmful images will continue to come from the Internet, e-mail attachments and embedded and zipped files. They also see Wi-Fi networks, networks not under company control, and cell phone cameras as strong future conduits for computer porn.