SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utah residents still work from home and spend a lot of time on their work computers. This can easily make people forget that it is not a personal computer. Many of us mix work and personal affairs. In fact, a study reveals that more than half of us also use our work devices for personal purposes. But erasing browser history isn’t enough to hide traces of personal browsing, shopping, or posting on our work machines. And there are many things that can get us in trouble.
At Nexus IT Consultants, they manage IT and cybersecurity for many Utah companies. Owner Earl Foote explains that part of that means monitoring activity on work devices provided to their clients’ employees.
“We deploy technologies that help us monitor activity happening on computers,” Foote said. “Activity that may be malicious or harmful, or that may cause vulnerabilities.”
So, Foote warns anyone who uses their work computer and phone for personal business, “It’s definitely a bad idea.”
Reason number one: you are jeopardizing the safety of your employer. Suppose you open a personal email with a link from a friend saying, “Hey, you gotta see this!” It turns out that it is actually a hacker and this link infects your work computer with malware or some kind of ransomware.
“It spreads this ransomware to tens, if not hundreds, even thousands of computers within hours, and locks down the entire system,” Foote explained.
It can also put very sensitive information about your employer, colleagues, clients into the wrong hands.
Here’s another reason: you’re risking your own privacy. Personal information such as accessing your bank account, verifying Gmail, or paying a bill on a work computer can be seen by IT. And although remote, there is always the possibility that a computer insider will go rogue with this information.
“It’s not very common, but sometimes you have situations where you have what we call a rogue insider in an internal IT department, who collects private data from other team members. They could steal information on bank accounts, or they could access their personal Gmail accounts and run phishing campaigns and things like that,” Foote said. “These malicious insiders, or rogue insiders, are the real deal.”
Reason 3: What you do online can come back to haunt you or get you fired. Whether you’re catching up with Ted Lasso, writing the Great American Novel on the clock, or spending hours browsing social media, IT sees it all. Foote said it’s not just about paranoid employers or micromanagement.
“We’re constantly looking at what’s going on and how we’re mitigating risk, right, because our job is to mitigate that risk.”
Foote says using your personal devices on your workplace network is just as risky. You can visit any website or use any application you want, which opens the door to data theft, malware, and other security nightmares for any IT department.