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Let's be honest; you've used your computer at work to view non-work-related Web sites. Heck, if you are reading this article at work, you might already be guilty as charged. More than 70 percent of the adult online population has accessed the Internet at work for personal use at least once, according to a September 2000 eMarketer study. Employees are sending personal e-mails, playing games, viewing pornography, shopping, checking stock prices and gambling online
during working hours. With a simple software application, your boss can be tapping into your computer and see what you're doing in real-time. Whether you are guilty of wasting company time or not, your computer might be under surveillance. You can be monitored without your knowledge. The growing number of employers who are monitoring their employees' activities is a result of the low cost of the monitoring technology, a growing percentage of employees using their computers for personal use and an increase in employees leaking sensitive company information.
Computers leave behind a trail of bread crumbs that can provide employers with all the information they could possibly need about an employee's computer-related activities. For employers, computers are the ultimate spy. There's little that can stop an employer from using these surveillance techniques.
There are basically five methods that employers can use to track employee activities:
* Packet sniffers
* Log files
* Desktop monitoring programs
* Closed-circuit cameras
A packet sniffer is a program that can see all of the information passing over the network it is connected to. As data streams back and forth on the network, the program looks at, or "sniffs," each packet. A packet is a part of a message that has been broken up.
Normally, a computer only looks at packets addressed to it and ignores the rest of the traffic on the network. But when a packet sniffer is set up on a computer, the sniffer's network interface is set to promiscuous mode. This means that it is looking at everything that comes through.
When you connect to the Internet, you are joining a network maintained by your Internet service provider (ISP). The ISP's network communicates with networks maintained by other ISPs to form the foundation of the Internet. A packet sniffer located at one of the servers of your ISP would potentially be able to monitor all of your online activities, such as:
* Which Web sites you visit
* What you look at on the site
* Whom you send e-mail to
* What's in the e-mail you send
* What you download from a site
* What streaming events you use, such as audio, video and Internet telephony
Every time you provide some form of input for your computer, whether it's typing or opening a new application, a signal is transmitted. These signals can be intercepted by a desktop monitoring program, which can be installed on a computer at the operating-system level or the assembly level. The person receiving the intercepted signals can see each character being typed and can replicate what the user is seeing on his or her screen.
Desktop monitoring programs have the ability to record every keystroke. When you are typing, a signal is sent from the keyboard to the application you are working in. This signal can be intercepted and either streamed back to the person who installed the monitoring program or recorded and sent back in a text file. The person it's sent back to is usually a system administrator. However, keystroke intercept programs are also popular among "hackers."
Hackers often use desktop monitoring programs to obtain user passwords. Intercept programs, because they record keystrokes, also make users susceptible to having their credit-card numbers and other sensitive personal data stolen.
Employers can use the desktop monitoring program to read e-mail and see any program that is open on your screen. Desktop replicating software captures the image on the computer screen by intercepting signals that are being transmitted to the computer's video card. These images are then streamed across the network to the system administrator. Some prepackaged programs include an alert system -- when a user visits an objectionable Web site or transmits inappropriate text, the system administrator is alerted to these actions.
Your computer is full of log files that provide evidence of what you've been doing. Through these log files, a system administrator can determine what Web sites you've accessed, whom you are sending e-mails to and receiving e-mails from and what applications are being used. So, if you are downloading MP3 files, there's more than likely a log file that holds data about that activity.
In many cases, this information can be located even after you've deleted what you thought was all the evidence -- but deleting an e-mail, or a file, doesn't erase the trail. Here are a few places where log files can be found:
* Operating systems
* Web browsers (in the form of a cache)
* Applications (in the form of backups)
So take care while sending personal information using your workplace computer or devices. The best way to avoid harassment is not to use the office computer for personal purposes. Learn how to surf the Internet without disclosing your identity. To read CLICK HERE.