It’s not unusual for employers to monitor employees’ computers and even their smartphones, but many employees don’t think about this in the course of their work day, spending breaks looking at potentially-sensitive personal email, having sexy chats, scrolling through (hopefully not too scandalous) Facebook photo albums, or maybe even checking out job listings elsewhere. Before you do anything too outrageous on your work computer, you might want to think about whether it’s monitored. I talked to computer forensics expert Michael Robinson and security researcher Ashkan Soltani about some tells that would reveal you’re potentially being watched.
First off, you should check your employee handbook or computer usage agreement. If your employer says there that your computer activity could be monitored — which is pretty standard — then they’ve got the right to peek. But then there’s the question of whether they’re actually taking advantage of that right.
“Whether you’ll be able to tell depends on where the monitoring is being done,” says Robinson. “If it’s upstream, at the Firewall, it’s hard for the user to know. That’ll just tell the employers which websites employees are going to, so they could check, for example, how many employees went to Monster.com that month. But if they want to actually see more granular activity, they have to put monitoring software on the computer itself.”