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Employers Should Plan For Cybercheating

In a recent study, 1,222 undergraduates were asked if they "cybercheat" by hiring a web service to write their term papers for them, and so on.

Half of them said that yes, they do cybercheat. The majors with the highest percentages of cybercheaters are engineering, technology, computer and mathematical sciences, social studies and business and administrative studies. Yes, business studies. You can read the fascinating study here.

After you scan it, put the findings into the context of the future workplace, when today's college students will be junior-level employees potentially outsourcing their report writing to third-party providers on the down low, when they're not copying all kinds of information off the web to pass off as their own in everything from corporate reports and product ideas to new processes and designs.

You can already hear the tense, closed-door meetings between manager and employee from five years away. "Hey boss, I didn't know I couldn't hire an outsider to write up that document about our [insert name of intellectual property]! And I didn't know that idea/process/trademark belonged to [insert name of big company with deep legal pockets]. I just pulled it off the Internet. What's the big deal? Everyone does it!"

The "everyone does it" defense is the one college students are using to justify their actions.

Not all college students will cybercheat of course, but if half of those surveyed admit to doing it in college then we should expect some of them might try it in the workplace. Affordable software products that let employers quickly scan product specs, processes and reports for cybercheating could become hot sellers over the next decade.

At the very least, employers should make sure employees say "copy, that" to some company rules regarding writing and online research.

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