General Question

marauder76's avatar

How can I tell if there is monitoring software on my computer?

Asked by marauder76 (390points) May 17th, 2009

Specifically wondering whether my networked computer at work is secure. I am usually on task while on the job, but I do use the comptuer to chat with my wife, and sometimes the chats deal with personal (i.e., financial; health; relationship, etc.) information. Is there a way to tell if my company monitors my keystrokes, does screen caps, watches where I surf, etc.?

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21 Answers

futurelaker88's avatar

make a word document (blank) and name it “DONT READ THIS” then save it to your desktop. do not open it, and everyday right click it and go to properties. it will tell you the last time it was “modified” (opened). then you can see if someones messing around…who can resist not clicking a file named that ;)

DarkScribe's avatar

Propose a plan to murder the boss and see if you get a tap on the shoulder. Write a letter to a fictitious friend talking about a workmate’s affair with the boss’s wife. See if the workmate gets sacked.

jrpowell's avatar

They can if they want too. I have seen a few IT departments go to great lengths to get people. The odds are good that they know more than any of us or you do about how they go about it.

Might be time to get a smartphone so they can’t see what you are doing.

Girl_Powered's avatar

Open the task manager and look. If it is running it will be there.

jrpowell's avatar

@Girl_Powered :: We had a lady that spent most of the day on MySpace. We set up a CRON job on OS X that e-mailed her browser history every hour. It only ran for a second and she would have to be so lucky to see it and know what it was.

She was deleting her browser history at the end of the day. But it was emailed every hour to the IT department. She wasn’t fired, just warned.

froamer's avatar

In theory (and often in practice) companies can monitor everything that goes through their network. Looking in the task manager for tracking software is not enough.

My advice is to not use the company network to transmit information you do not want people in the company to see. I’m with @johnpowell – get a Smartphone and make sure you do not connect to the office network (e.g. Wi-Fi) because that could just as easily be monitored.

jrpowell's avatar

I should have specified that. Don’t use the wifi from the company. They can see that.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

If you are in an enterprise environment, you are not secure from the prying eyes of your IT department. They can watch everything you do, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. That doesn’t mean they are actively watching you, just that they can.

You can, however, get an idea of what they’re doing by checking your logs periodically. Go to Start, Control Panel, Administrative tools, Event Viewer. Open the Security log, and take a look at what is entered there. You will be able to see when they are logging on to your machine remotely, among other things.

If you don’t have privileges on your machine to look at these things – because you have a restricted logon, or because a group policy object prevents you from seeing it, it’s safe to say you’re being watched.

You still have some avenues to privacy. Try gmail, and log in using https. They’ll be able to monitor the connection, but not see what you’re writing back and forth.

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robmandu's avatar

Like @froamer said, IT need not run anything on your PC to monitor your activity.

If you’re on the corporate network, they can monitor all of your communications by logging the activity on other machines (routers, gateways, proxies, servers, etc.)

At the end of the day, you’re using the company’s PC, on the company’s network, during time you’re supposed to be doing the company’s work. Of course they’ll be monitoring usage of the company’s resources (including you). You should assume “worst-case” scenario in terms of what they can see.

If you want privacy, then get your own equipment (per @johnpowell‘s suggestion).

DarkScribe's avatar

Install your own firewall if you have sufficient privileges, something that blocks all incoming and outgoing activity unless you authorise it. If you don’t have sufficient privileges, install your own router and have it mimic the MAC address normally used. Have the router block all incoming and outgoing that you don’t approve. A compact wireless router using a wired connection to your computer, mimicking your computer’s MAC and logging onto the LAN as though it was your computer. Change the Group Polices to prevent auto updates and you are in business. There’s always a way if you have a good enough IT IQ.

What I do is simple, I use my own WiFI card, even in the office (if I am not in my own office, where I have full privileges). No one can see what I am doing then. I am I am doing that right now. I still have full LAN access when I need it by logging on through a WEB portal. My reason for a high level of security isn’t the IT department, I rank equal with them, it is security with regard to company business and directions being leaked. I won’t join a network of several hundred computers that are accessed by people in departments that I don’t even know exist.

froamer's avatar

@DarkScribe I can’t see how installing a firewall or using your own WiFi card will help here. A firewall could stop local software sending monitoring data out but the problem is with legitimate data flowing through the company network where it can be logged at the rooter or proxy. As far as I know there is no way to prevent this other than by not using the company network.

froamer's avatar

… Unless you use an encrypted IM to chat to your wife but even if you are allowed to install one on your company PC I would still go with a smart phone or a cellular broadband stick you can plug into a USB port which gets you online without going near the office network. Also if you are entering financial info into an IM be careful of the IM history/logs. You could be leaving easy to find valuable data if you PC is lost or stolen.

DarkScribe's avatar

@froamer There was no mention of “legitimate data flow” Once you introduce your own “firewalled” router you are isolated from the LAN. You can still allow “legitimate” outgoing packets as long as you have the skill to discern what is what. I write about IT, technology and lifestyle and have a pretty good “finger on the pulse”, sufficient to have kept myself isolated from all networks for many years. One really handy thing in my arsenal is using a Mac of a PC oriented network. IT Managers whinge and whine at me, but I have become adept at not understanding them. (Another handy solution, not yet covered, is using a smart phone tethered as a modem.)

froamer's avatar

@DarkScribe unless I am misunderstanding, @marauder76 is using his work computer on his company network to talk to his wife and is discussing private information. The “legitimate data flow” I speak of is the data flowing from his IM to his wife’s IM. If he lets this traffic out of his local firewall onto the company network and it is not encrypted it can be spied by the IT people in his company. If he blocks the IM traffic he will not be able to speak with his wife. Since the IT department could spy any traffic that flows through their proxy/router the only way to be certain they are not spying the data is to not send it through their network.

Even if the data is encrypted, the IT guys would know he was using an IM, which might not be a good thing and if he leaves his computer in the office, the IM logs might be examined in his absence.

I too have been in the industry for a while (nearly 25 years now) – know, I look young for my age ;-) .....(not).

Since this is a security question I think it is important we make it clear that using the company network is by no means secure.

I like your idea of using a mobile as a modem, this would have the same effect as using a cellular broadband stick (which you can pick up in the UK for £30 on a pay as you go tariff) which plugs into a USB port and doesn’t tie up your mobile phone.

Of course, just because you think they are out to get you doesn’t mean they are, but I wouldn’t send personal or sensitive information through an office network.

Girl_Powered's avatar

Just use an AirCard and pay your own access fees if it really worries you. Or do what a lot of people do now and use a BlackBerry. I connect to my BlackBerry with Bluetooth, so I can send an email, SMS whatever quickly and easily that doesn’t have anything to do with my work computer or leave any record on it. The Bluetooth connection makes for fast and easy typing. In a world riddled with communication technology it isn’t hard to remain “off the grid”.

noodle_poodle's avatar

this is interesting….i have a company mobile…can they see my text messages? i have to admit i sometimes slip up and use it for personal stuff

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@noodle_poodle , your text messages are stored in the phone memory. The usage statistics are stored on your Mobile provider’s server, for billing purposes, so they will know how much you’re using your phone for texting, but not the content of the messages themselves. You should be able to delete the messages stored in your phone easily.

noodle_poodle's avatar

thanx @IchtheosaurusRex thats what i thought i just had to check

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