Why you should stop using your work computers, phones for personal use

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns are still working from home, spending a lot of time on their work computers. That can make it easy to forget it is not a personal computer.

Many of us do blend work and personal stuff; in fact, a study finds over half of us use our work devices for personal use, too. But clearing out the browser history is not enough to hide traces of personal browsing, shopping or posting on our work machines. And there are a lot of things that can get us in trouble.

Over at Nexus IT Consultants, they handle IT and cybersecurity for scores of Utah businesses. Owner Earl Foote says part of that means monitoring activity on work devices issued to their clients' employees.

"We deploy technologies that help us monitor activity that's happening on computers," Foote said. "Activity that can be malicious, or nefarious or can cause vulnerabilities."

So, Foote cautions anyone using their work computers and phones for personal stuff: "It's definitely a bad idea."

Reason No. 1: You are jeopardizing your employer's security. Say you open a personal email with a link from a friend saying, "Hey, you've got to see this!" Turns out, it is really from a hacker and that link infects your work computer with malware or some sort of ransomware.

"It spreads that ransomware across dozens, maybe hundreds or even thousands of computers within a few hours, and locks up the whole entire system," Foote explained.

That can also put highly sensitive information about your employer, your coworkers or your customers in the wrong hands.

Here is another reason: You are risking your own privacy. Personal stuff like accessing your bank account, checking Gmail, or paying a bill on a work computer can be seen by IT. And while remote, there is always the possibility of an IT insider going rogue with that information.

"This is not super common, but you do have situations sometimes where you have what we call a rogue insider in an internal IT department, who is gathering private data of other team members. They might be stealing information about bank accounts, or they might be getting into their personal Gmail accounts and executing phishing campaigns and things like that," Foote said. "Those malicious insiders, or rogue insiders, are a real deal."

Reason No. 3: What you do online can come back to haunt you or get you fired. Whether you are catching up on Ted Lasso, writing the great American novel while on the clock, or spending hours scrolling through social media — IT sees all that. Foote said it is not all about paranoid employers or micromanaging.

"We are constantly looking at what's going on and how we mitigate risk, right, because that's our job is to mitigate that risk."

Foote says using your personal devices on your workplace's network is just as risky. You can view any website or use any app you want, which opens up the potential for data theft, malware and other security nightmares for any IT department.

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Matt Gephardt
Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for more than 20 years, and as a reporter since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at matt@ksl.com.
Sloan Schrage


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