CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUN. 18, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Check if You Are Being Monitored at Work

Big brother is watching you…

Do you ever feel like you’re living in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984? Well if you do feel that way when at work, perhaps your emails are being unjustly monitored - but how do you check?

Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that you should always assume you are being monitored whether you’re certain or not, as you are employed to work and not play games etc. when you’re at the office. Another thing to remember is, if you do track down monitoring software on your computer, you should never try and block it as this will instantly arouse suspicion.

In spite of this, if you feel like you have to look over your shoulder when you shouldn’t have to, you can at least check by rooting out the potential spyware on your computer console...

Online Activity

Some companies use third party remote desktop tracking software such as RealVNC, or TightVNC in order to track your on screen activity. To see if something like this is installed on your computer, hit the start button on your desktop (or for OS X, the Applications folder or System Preferences) and trawl through the menu for a foreign icon. When clicking on the icon, you’ll be able to tell instantly whether this is spyware as you will see terms such as ‘monitoring’ etc. when it opens up on screen.

Alternatively, you can do a system-wide search via your system search bar, by typing in the key terms ‘spyware’ or ‘monitoring software’ and if something of this nature is present, it will rear its ugly head in the returned results. This is a good method as sometimes these programmes can be hiding in a sneaky folder somewhere and you will definitively know if your employer is tracking you during the working day.

Besides third party software, companies can also monitor your emails and online activity via the network. Every company has a computer based network in which all employees are connected for collaboration and communication. The IT administrator has primary access to the overall network and can, therefore, monitor everyone’s online activity if he or she so wishes. In short, in any company, there is always a level of monitoring, as it really is kind of essential - this is always worth bearing in mind.

Email

When it comes to email, the majority of companies use Microsoft Outlook. One way you’ll know if your emails are being strongly monitored is by sending an external email to a personal email address with, not an expletive (you don’t want to get in trouble), but perhaps with a questionable word like ‘crud’ or something similar woven into the text. If the email exchange is being monitored with specialist software, you will actually receive an automated message stating  that your email ‘has been flagged’. Providing you make it look like an innocent email and don’t say anything personally offensive in the text, it will be put down to an honest mistake and you’ll know to watch your back when sending certain emails at work.

In conclusion, we live in a world where big brother does now seem to reign supreme and whether you like it or not, you are most likely being monitored to some extent - so the best thing to do is work during the day and use your breaks for personal matters or random web surfing. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being watched, but it’s always worth being careful, after all, there’s plenty of time to play outside of work.

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