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

SALT LAKE CITY — Many Utahns still work from home and spend a lot of time on their work computers. That can make it easy to forget it’s not a personal computer. Many of us actually combine work and personal things an investigation believe that more than half of us also use our work devices for personal use. But clearing browser history is not enough to hide traces of personal browsing, shopping or posting on our work machines. And there are many things that can get us into trouble.

At Nexus IT consultants, they handle IT and cybersecurity for dozens of Utah companies. Owner Earl Foote says this means, among other things, monitoring activities on work equipment provided to their customers’ employees.

“We deploy technologies that help us track activity on computers,” Foote says. “Activity that may be malicious, nefarious, or cause vulnerabilities.”

So, Foote warns anyone who uses their work computers and phones for personal things, “It’s definitely a bad idea.”

Reason number one: you are endangering the safety of your employer. Let’s say you open a personal email with a link from a friend that says, “Hey, gotta see this!” It turns out it really belongs to a hacker and that link infects your work computer with malware or some kind of ransomware.

“It spreads that ransomware across dozens, maybe hundreds, or even thousands of computers in a matter of hours and shuts down the entire system,” explains Foote.

That can also put very sensitive information about your employer, your colleagues, your customers in the wrong hands.

Here’s another reason: you’re putting your own privacy at risk. Personal matters, such as accessing your bank account, checking Gmail, or paying a bill on a work computer can be seen by IT. And while remote, there’s always the possibility that an IT insider could cheat with that information.

“This isn’t super common, but you sometimes have situations where you have a so-called rogue insider in an internal IT department, collecting private data from other team members. They can steal information about bank accounts, or they can access their personal Gmail accounts and run phishing campaigns and things like that,” Foote said. “Those malicious insiders, or rogue insiders, are a real deal.”

Reason three: What you do online can haunt you or get you fired. Whether you catch up with Ted Lasso, write the great American novel while you’re at it, or spend hours scrolling through social media – IT sees it all. Foote said it’s not just about paranoid employers or micromanaging.

“We’re constantly looking at what’s going on and how we’re reducing risk, right, because our job is to reduce that risk.”

Foote says it’s just as risky to use your personal devices on your workplace network. You can browse any website or use any app you want, opening up the potential for data theft, malware, and other security nightmares for any IT department.

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