May 24, 2020

Working From Home / Telecommute | What Your EMPLOYER Might See

With many people working from home due to the current pandemic, productivity usually comes to mind. Employers wonder if their personnel are effectively telecommuting, while employees may wonder if distractions are tracked or logged.

Are you really working from home or do you occasionally slack off?

Do you visit websites that are not work-related?

Are you looking for a new job during business hours?

Does your employer know where you're physically at?

As a seasoned system administrator, my friends often come to me asking what are the limitations of their work devices in terms of what their employer can see or track. I can provide some insight on what the IT team can see and what we look for.

laptop work from home

Tools of the Trade

If you're working off of a company-provided computer, chances are, there are logging and reporting tools preinstalled. This isn't necessarily to spy on employees but rather it is a support tool when calling IT.

You can bet that these reporting tools turn into documenting tools if an employer is interested in checking for productivity.

If your company uses any type of software where the IT person can instantly hop onto your computer, that means your IT department can always see what you're doing. Additionally, we see:

  • the applications that you're running
  • the applications that you have installed
  • access to your system logs
  • software updates
  • your system resources
  • a thumbnail of your current screen
  • computer specs
user on adult website
user caught watching porn at work


Do you use a personal device but have to log onto your company's VPN to work? Well, in some cases we can see your web traffic from said personal device as well.

If you log into a virtual desktop environment, your session can be monitored or tracked. e.g. If you turn on your physical computer and opened an application to get to your working virtual desktop with all of your company's programs.

Thinking of looking for a new job on that company computer? That's a pretty dumb idea but I've seen it happen countless times. Internet filters and computer security software can easily pick up and notify when certain web categories are accessed.

Did your company give a cell phone for business use? Are you mixing it with personal use? With preinstalled Mobile Device Management (MDM) software like Airwatch, your company can remotely wipe your device. The IT department can also remotely install any type of apps on your phone as well. With Airwatch, companies can also configure it to track your GPS data, thus knowing where you're at or where you should be.

Maybe you don't have a company cellphone. Employers can still track your location based on IP address. Logging onto company accounts, company resources or networks are logged by IP. This can typically identify a user's location. Food for thought in case you want to work from somewhere not authorized by your company.

Emails are not private despite any disclaimer. Admins have full access for read and write to any user in the company.

Complaining Gets you Monitored

I had users from one office constantly complaining of broken software. With constant complaints, I decided to install monitoring software by Teramind onto all of my problematic users.

Teramind records the screen while any user is logged in. It logs application usage, screen idles and so much more. But the craziest thing that most users would not even imagine it does, is that it records keystrokes. Yes, I can see your conversations typed out, passwords, and whatever you may deem private.

With Teramind, we found out users were incorrectly using the software. This lead to scheduling additional training which eventually resolved the issues.

There was another case of an office complaining of slow internet. When IT started to monitor the users, we saw that they were constantly streaming videos and a live webcam service. Want to guess what immediately gets blocked?

Once a user is no longer problematic, I will typically uninstall the monitoring software.

Don't Be Stupid

At my last company, I knew a guy that looked for prostitutes daily. He would browse the internet using company equipment and didn't even bother to hide his tracks. He thought browsing incognito would protect him. It doesn't.

In general, we're not looking to bust anyone or get anyone in trouble. However, if you're causing us more work, you best believe that we're going to be monitoring you closely.

Obvious Tips for the Oblivious

  • Don't go to websites that cause your computer to get infected. This may trickle out to the rest of the company network and computers. You'll immediately get flagged by IT.
  • Use a personal device if you're going to screw around during work hours.
    • Don't do it using the company WIFI. We can still see what you're looking at.
  • Be nice to the IT guys. Don't treat them as repairmen.

Read my working from home tips here.

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