best way to hide your personal information on work laptop

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atlanta_dad
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best way to hide your personal information on work laptop

Post by atlanta_dad »

I want to have my personal folder and have all my information under that folder on my work laptop running on windows 7.
Some times I will have to give my laptop to my colleagues for work related reasons. At those times I would like to quickly lock/hide my personal folder with out worrying about it.
This must be the most common situation every one come across at the workplace.
Seems like Windows 7 by itself does not have any good solution. Could some one please suggest. Thanks in advance.
Last edited by atlanta_dad on Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Last edited by pinecrest on Mon Feb 24, 2014 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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LadyGeek
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by LadyGeek »

Who owns the laptop? If the company owns it, I'll bet they have a policy about personal use (don't). In that case, put everything on a USB drive.

For web surfing, you also don't want to use their VPN (logs your activity) or browser company profile. Disconnect from the VPN and surf using Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition installed on the USB stick.

If it's your personal laptop, then install a secure volume (virtual disk drive) with TrueCrypt using a secure password or keyfile.

BTW, 7-Zip is more secure than WinZip as it also masks the stored filenames. WinZip does not.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by tibbitts »

Maybe you could keep the data off the computer and access it over the network.
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atlanta_dad
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by atlanta_dad »

Thanks LadyGeek, this is work laptop.

Also, could some one please suggest a VERY SECURE USB drive with password encryption etc, where I don't need to worry even if I lose it. Thanks.
MN Finance
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by MN Finance »

As mentioned, which you may not agree with, you should not have personal files beyond something trivial (like a couple photos of the kids) on a company owned computer. First, it's probably against company policy (though most allow for incidental use of company resources like a few copies or faxes). And second, if you leave your job you may loose the data. A flash drive is best IMO (unless that's not allowed). I've been walked to my car by a fortune 100 company before with no explanation and thankfully I had nothing of personal value in my office or on my computer.
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atlanta_dad
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by atlanta_dad »

Maybe you could keep the data off the computer and access it over the network.
I can do it by having all my personal files in Google Drive or similar. But it is inconvenient to have to log in to Google each time.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by prudent »

I would not keep personal information on a work laptop no matter how secure I thought it might be. Sometimes things stop working and you have to give your laptop to an IT person to be worked on - and those people tend to be very good at scouring disk drives for what was meant to be private. I hear them joking about it all the time.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by brad.clarkston »

atlanta_dad wrote:Thanks LadyGeek, this is work laptop.

Also, could some one please suggest a VERY SECURE USB drive with password encryption etc, where I don't need to worry even if I lose it. Thanks.
This is the best hardware encrypted stick I've found so far, it's the only thumbdrives that can be used on my network (GPO policy doesn't allow any other kind to work).

{ http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-8GB-Trav ... rivacy+3.0 }
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by tibbitts »

atlanta_dad wrote:
Maybe you could keep the data off the computer and access it over the network.
I can do it by having all my personal files in Google Drive or similar. But it is inconvenient to have to log in to Google each time.
You might consider that if you're accessing personal data so often that it's inconvenient to use google drive, you might be accessing that data a little too often.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by jebmke »

atlanta_dad wrote:Thanks LadyGeek, this is work laptop.

Also, could some one please suggest a VERY SECURE USB drive with password encryption etc, where I don't need to worry even if I lose it. Thanks.
As LG said in her earlier post, just use Truecrypt. There is a portable version that you can run from the USB drive without installing it on the laptop.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by FNK »

TrueCrypt is a very popular encryption program that will allow you to set up an encrypted container either on the laptop or on a USB stick.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by investor1 »

If you go with a low profile USB flash drive like this one, http://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-Cruzer-Fl ... 00812F7O8/, you can leave it plugged in pretty much all of the time and just remove it when you need to give your laptop to your co-workers.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by LadyGeek »

jebmke wrote:
atlanta_dad wrote:Thanks LadyGeek, this is work laptop.

Also, could some one please suggest a VERY SECURE USB drive with password encryption etc, where I don't need to worry even if I lose it. Thanks.
As LG said in her earlier post, just use Truecrypt. There is a portable version that you can run from the USB drive without installing it on the laptop.
I wasn't sure if you can install TrueCrypt without admin privileges. Company laptops normally do not allow empolyees to have admin privileges.

According to TrueCrypt, you can run in portable mode, but still need an admin to install the TrueCrypt program: Using TrueCrypt Without Administrator Privileges

Actually, new member brad.clarkston has a good solution:
brad.clarkston wrote:
atlanta_dad wrote:Thanks LadyGeek, this is work laptop.

Also, could some one please suggest a VERY SECURE USB drive with password encryption etc, where I don't need to worry even if I lose it. Thanks.
This is the best hardware encrypted stick I've found so far, it's the only thumbdrives that can be used on my network (GPO policy doesn't allow any other kind to work).

{ http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-8GB-Trav ... rivacy+3.0 }
My company used to divvy out IronKey encrypted flash drives, but they're far more expensive than the Kingston drive. It's "MIL-SPEC" quality at "MIL" prices...

investor1 - The OP is worried about losing the USB drive, which is a valid concern. A hardware encrypted flash drive will self-destruct (format) after a few incorrect tries. No other software is needed, I assume it doesn't need admin privileges to install the drive. More info: Secure USB Flash Drives | Kingston
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by carorun »

Keep it in Google Drive or Dropbox. Download their plugins to your desktop and it will feel like the file is actually on your computer.
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FNK
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by FNK »

In the case of Dropbox, the file actually is on your computer. ;-)
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by qui »

atlanta_dad wrote:I want to have my personal folder and have all my information under that folder on my work laptop running on windows 7.
Some times I will have to give my laptop to my colleagues for work related reasons. At those times I would like to quickly lock/hide my personal folder with out worrying about it.
This must be the most common situation every one come across at the workplace.
Seems like Windows 7 by itself does not have any good solution. Could some one please suggest. Thanks in advance.
How thoroughly are you trying to hide/secure this information? Additionally, are user accounts involved? If user accounts are involved, you can most likely make a folder and explicitly deny access to all other accounts. An admin could always take ownership of it (which allows them to change the permissions), so it's not very effective against administrators. However, if you're just trying to keep Joe User from accessing the folder that's a pretty quick fix. Keep in mind that this won't encrypt your data, and someone determined with physical access to your machine could rip out the drive and use something like encase or helix to pull the files. It's probably good to think of this method of security kind of like locking the door to a bathroom stall.

If you're not using user accounts, or if this colleague is using the computer with your account, this will do nothing to guard your information. That being said, TrueCrypt is really the way to go.
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frugaltype
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by frugaltype »

This sounds like an awful lot of effort. Why not keep your personal information on your system at home instead.
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WillyMcG
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by WillyMcG »

Another vote for TrueCrypt, executed off a USB drive.

Periodically make a backup of your TrueCrypt container file whether you keep it on the USB drive or the PC. You could either get fired or have a corruption and it sounds like these are files you really want.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by SimonJester »

Another vote to not storing your personal information on your work computer. Many larger companies have policies against it.

On top of the policy and privacy issues, your IT department may not bother to back it up should your system need worked on.

If you are going to do it at all the external USB stick is probably the best bet.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by cheese_breath »

SimonJester wrote:Another vote to not storing your personal information on your work computer. Many larger companies have policies against it.
Add one more vote. The best way to hide your data is don't put it on your work laptop. Your company may have a policy that everything on their laptops belongs to the company.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by TimeRunner »

Another vote to keep your work PC as pure as the driven snow(den). Use a USB if you must. Best to not use it at all, as temp files and such will be created and not necessarily deleted on your main work drive. Best answer - don't use work machine for non-work.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by countdown »

I don't think you should be placing your personal information on your employer's computer, let alone trying to hide it.
As a former employer, I find it quite offensive.
What's wrong with your personal laptop? It's too obvious that you are not working?
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by German Expat »

I travel a lot and like to have (some) personal files with me. I put them on a USB stick rather then storing them on the company laptop.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by jedblanks »

Cloud based storage? Preferably with encryption. Google drive, sky drive etc?
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Epsilon Delta »

jedblanks wrote:Cloud based storage? Preferably with encryption. Google drive, sky drive etc?
So you use your employers Internet instead of your employers hard drive? Hard drives are cheaper.

Although several of my employers have specifically authorized using company computers for personal use, as long as it did not violate other policies such as not working on company time or doing something illegal. The rationale was that familiarity with pretty much any software was useful training. They also allowed us to take tools, ranging from wrenches to oscilloscopes, home with the same rationale.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Diogenes »

This is not really the right forum to be asking these questions.

Information viewed on a company laptop can be retrieved regardless if you store it on a flash drive or not. The right thing to do is to use the company laptop for company work . Carry a tablet for your personal work.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Aptenodytes »

Do you log on to the laptop with a personal user ID? If so, have co-workers log on with their own personal ID, or if that isn't practical log on to the default "guest" account. That will keep all the basic personal files off limits from casual browsing.

If you are worried about deliberate spying, you need to take other measures.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by FNK »

Read your employment handbook. I always had my employers allow "incidental" personal use, with the rationale that if they save me the hassle of procuring my own printouts and faxes, I'll have more brain capacity for work. If your employer does allow that, and your concern boils down to coworkers, use truecrypt. Case closed.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by ogd »

TimeRunner wrote:Another vote to keep your work PC as pure as the driven snow(den). Use a USB if you must. Best to not use it at all, as temp files and such will be created and not necessarily deleted on your main work drive. Best answer - don't use work machine for non-work.
Yes, this is a big problem that none of the above solutions would solve. The only thing that would is a virtual machine (computer-within-computer), with TrueCrypt protecting the disk. Then you do all your personal stuff inside the virtual machine, as you would if carrying another laptop, which is admittedly much more inconvenient.

This also has the advantage that it protects your work machine from whatever malicious links your friends might be sending you inadvertenly (to give an example). It's hard or impossible for a virus to break out of a virtual machine even if it takes it over; hard enough that people are using them to test the behaviour of trapped viruses. You can even restrict its network access to avoid the company intranet, which I strongly recommend doing.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by busymike »

I deal with this every day. I keep important spreadsheets and word docs as google docs in my gmail account, and I have a dropbox account for everything else. I would not recommend installing the dropbox client that downloads everything to the local machine. Instead, keep it in the cloud and access what you need through your web browser. This is absolutely the best way to keep your privacy intact. It's a lot easier to clear your browsing history and cookies than it is to eliminate trace files all around your computer.

if you're tech savvy, the other thing i've done from time to time is set up a Splashtop account so that I can log into my home computer remotely from work. I will do this for when I'm traveling with my company laptop so I can access my home server.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by 02sbxstr »

It is not your laptop - it belongs to your employer. He probably won't mind if you loaded, say, a few family images, but you should have absolutely no expectation of privacy for anything personal. If you're traveling and need access to personal files, take your laptop with you. Stop trying to get something for nothing.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by NeedToRetire »

Put Ubuntu on a flash drive and boot it whenever you need the data. No record will be obtained in your (I assume) Windows system because you're not running Windows when you are accessing your data.

I had a similar problem - very heavy 17" work computer, long business trips. I wanted to use the system for personal browsing and activities while on the road and didn't want to carry two laptops. This was my solution.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by jebmke »

NeedToRetire wrote:Put Ubuntu on a flash drive and boot it whenever you need the data. No record will be obtained in your (I assume) Windows system because you're not running Windows when you are accessing your data.

I had a similar problem - very heavy 17" work computer, long business trips. I wanted to use the system for personal browsing and activities while on the road and didn't want to carry two laptops. This was my solution.
Yes, that can work if the administrators don't block booting from USB drives. Many companies are doing that now.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Aptenodytes »

atlanta_dad wrote:
Maybe you could keep the data off the computer and access it over the network.
I can do it by having all my personal files in Google Drive or similar. But it is inconvenient to have to log in to Google each time.
It sounds like you might get almost all of what you need by keeping open a dedicated high-privacy browser session logged in to your personal Google account, logging off when you loan the laptop to a coworker. A Chrome incognito window might work. Open it, log into Google, and keep your personal email and Google documents open there. You don't even have to remember to log out -- closing the window (not minimizing) will leave no traces other than copies of downloaded files.

I don't know how often you give the laptop to someone else. If you do so dozens of times a day, this approach isn't good, but then I can't imagine anything that would be good.

To be clear, what you seek is a low level of privacy protection. Keeping your personal stuff in the cloud does nothing to stop what most employers reserve the right to do -- monitor the content of what goes over their network.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by yatesd »

I am surprised by some of the responses and I think it is a real challenge in the modern workplace. I am a field employee and travel for work. I generally have a home office day once a week and overnight on average two days a week. I don't have an hourly job. I might be doing some personal stuff at 9:30AM when I am home, but on Monday I might be driving until 10:00PM.

The point...the lines between personal time and business time is more blurred than ever.

When I am focused on working (could be 8:00 at night) I am generally logged into a VPN to check email. I minimize personal browsing while on the VPN (especially since it goes across the company network). Company policy states there is no expectation of privacy on company owned devices. BTW, my work laptop is a 7lb behemoth.

When I can, I also try to bring my personal Windows 8 tablet and Macbook Air. Sometimes switching between devices is convenient and other times it is not. Sometimes I do work stuff on my personal devices.

Some thoughts:

- I use Dropbox...this almost benefits the company more than me. It allows me to quickly share files with someone via phone or login to any computer to access. If the company provided a more secure alternative I would use it.

- For occasional browsing...I have Chrome set to automatically remove all cookies on exit. Another option would be to use Incognito mode. Not via VPN.

- I have a VM installed on my work laptop and suppose I could do my "personal stuff" via this option.

- I don't currently use encryption or selective sync on Dropbox for personal files. I guess I should...

- In most cases, any cloud based storage that is not synced locally (Skydrive, Box.net, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) would be ideal. Keep in mind any file opened locally would need to be deleted and removed from recycle bin. It could be downloaded to an encrypted USB.

- I have used CC cleaner in the past and should probably consider using it for wiping data

Although company policy protects the company, IMHO it is not very practical in today's BYOD environment and makes it very challenging to work efficiently while maintaining a reasonable level of privacy. For this reason, I find the discussion interesting...

The same can be said of phones. My new employer provides phones where my old employer just allowed us to expense personal phones. Some coworkers carry two phones due to privacy concerns. I just find this too much of a hassle (for me and my wallet) since our phone plan includes unlimited usage. My former employer used Mobile Iron and my current company uses Airwatch. I suppose they can technically see where I am, what I am doing, where I am eating, and how many times I use the restroom 7 days a week.

Disclaimer: If someone is spending more time on Facebook than work they should be fired. This isn't the question. The question is about personal privacy using a company owned device and the various levels of security/privacy that are available.
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Warning Understand Your Corporate Security Poilcy

Post by THY4373 »

OP there is a lot of well meaning guidance in this thread but I urge you to understand your corporate security policy before acting on any of this guidance. I do security work for an organization that has a fairly tight (but not insanely so compared to some organizations I have seen). We do not allow personal USB drives to be connected to our systems, the presence of encryption software on a PC would almost certainly warrant an investigation if unauthorized (that is not for business purposes) as would the use of cloud storage services (depending on the amount of data sent). My advice and what I personally practice is to keep personal and work entirely separate (when I travel I travel with two laptops--I have a light weight netbook for my personal laptop when traveling on business with my corporate laptop).
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by THY4373 »

NeedToRetire wrote:Put Ubuntu on a flash drive and boot it whenever you need the data. No record will be obtained in your (I assume) Windows system because you're not running Windows when you are accessing your data.

I had a similar problem - very heavy 17" work computer, long business trips. I wanted to use the system for personal browsing and activities while on the road and didn't want to carry two laptops. This was my solution.
Great idea but if you mess up and initiate an accidental install you might wipe your corporate laptop drive (yes I have seen this exact scenario more than once). Yes I know, you almost have to try hard to do this but I have seen it twice :-).
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by THY4373 »

FNK wrote:Read your employment handbook. I always had my employers allow "incidental" personal use, with the rationale that if they save me the hassle of procuring my own printouts and faxes, I'll have more brain capacity for work. If your employer does allow that, and your concern boils down to coworkers, use truecrypt. Case closed.
My corporation allows incidental personal use but the presence of Truecrypt would likely kick off an investigation into an employee unless it was authorized. Basically incidental personal use doesn't necessarily mean one can install any software they want, use USBs, etc. So just because it says incidental personal use is authorized it doesn't mean everything listed in this thread is authorized. Also note that using stuff off a USB (if USBs are authorized) doesn't mean the software on the USB won't be detected. I have busted many folks with questionable software (back when we allow USBs) when their USB was inventoried by SMS (used for patching Windows devices in corporate environments) when connected to our corporate laptop.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by leonard »

That's why work is called work.

Just keep it reasonable. Limited (and appropriate) internet browsing on a company computer is acceptable. If it is not - the employer is not being smart.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by mw1739 »

I am kinda surprised so many of you can access Gmail, Dropbox etc. on your company computers. My employer blocks access to all email and file sharing websites automatically.

My computer also prevents the use of any flash drive besides my encrypted company issue one.

Lastly, I'm jealous of those who can install Chrome and Firefox, while my IT department blocks all software installations and I'm stuck using lowly Internet Explorer.

I do have some personal documents on my computer. I generally just use the password feature in Office to protect those - not the best option, but better than nothing. My employer knows my SSN and how much I make anyway.
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Aptenodytes »

mw1739 wrote:I am kinda surprised so many of you can access Gmail, Dropbox etc. on your company computers. My employer blocks access to all email and file sharing websites automatically.

My computer also prevents the use of any flash drive besides my encrypted company issue one.

Lastly, I'm jealous of those who can install Chrome and Firefox, while my IT department blocks all software installations and I'm stuck using lowly Internet Explorer.

I do have some personal documents on my computer. I generally just use the password feature in Office to protect those - not the best option, but better than nothing. My employer knows my SSN and how much I make anyway.
There are all different kinds of work environments. I work at a university where the right to snoop is declared but rarely exercised. And it is expected that people will use work computers for personal purposes, as part of the generic "grand bargain" that has crept into place blurring the division between the private and the personal. If I'm grading papers at home on the weekend, far easier to let me email my children's teachers on the same computer. At most universities, there is even often a policy in place permitting modest use of work computers for private consulting purposes. Many departments encourage it though many merely tolerate it. In my case, I have to declare such uses but don't have to refrain from them.

The proliferation of services such as DropBox and Google has sped up the blurring of the personal/private line. Many people are finding what I have found, that it is a royal pain to maintain two separate Google identities or other service identities, and therefore I have seen more and more people use their personal Google account to register for work-related Google services (documents, groups, etc.).
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by plannerman »

Back when I was working for a Fortune 100 mega company, they were involved in some antitrust litigation. One Saturday morning a troop of IT folks swooped in and downloaded the contents of the hard drives of the computers of everyone remotely involved. Everything, and I mean everything, from those hard drives was printed and cataloged. I was one of the “lucky” employees selected to sit in a conference room in a white-shoe law firm in NYC and go through literately tons of paper documents looking for incriminating information.

The amount of personal information on the company computers was astounding. Just about everything you could think of from emails from lovers,to divorce settlements, to outside job offers. to salary information, to personal portfolios.

It did make the drudgery of going through the documents a little more entertaining.

So my advice is, don’t put anything on a company computer you don’t want your employer to read.

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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by Epsilon Delta »

plannerman wrote:Back when I was working for a Fortune 100 mega company, they were involved in some antitrust litigation. One Saturday morning a troop of IT folks swooped in and downloaded the contents of the hard drives of the computers of everyone remotely involved. Everything, and I mean everything, from those hard drives was printed and cataloged. I was one of the “lucky” employees selected to sit in a conference room in a white-shoe law firm in NYC and go through literately tons of paper documents looking for incriminating information.

The amount of personal information on the company computers was astounding. Just about everything you could think of from emails from lovers,to divorce settlements, to outside job offers. to salary information, to personal portfolios.

It did make the drudgery of going through the documents a little more entertaining.

So my advice is, don’t put anything on a company computer you don’t want your employer to read.

plannerman
If you wouldn't mind: Did you encounter any encrypted files, and if so how did you deal with them?

It is also possible for legal discovery to expose your personal computer. If you use your computer for work it may be open for discovery. It is most likely to be searched if there are logs or similar that show it is involved or you are asked, under oath, what computers you use. If you never use your personal computer for work it is more likely to escape such a search.
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plannerman
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Re: best way to hide your personal information on work lapto

Post by plannerman »

If you wouldn't mind: Did you encounter any encrypted files, and if so how did you deal with them?
I don't actually know. The IT folks did the downloading and provided us hard copies but this was maybe 17 years ago before encryption was as widely available.

plannerman
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