It’s easier than ever to blur the lines between personal and professional technology in the age of remote work. Sending personal texts or emails from your work phone, editing personal documents or photos on your work laptop, or participating in a virtual happy hour with friends from your work tablet are all examples.
Although none of these behaviors appear to be very dangerous. At the very least, the potentially riskier actions, are storing personal data on your work computer or sensitive company data on your home devices.
Cybersecurity breaches can have major ramifications for both your organization and yourself. You could be reprimanded, demoted, dismissed, sued, or even legally prosecuted even if there is no genuine security breach or data leak. Consider the case of John M. Deutch, the former director of the CIA.
Work Laptops, Porn Sites, And An Ex-CIA Director
When Deutch left his position as Director of Central Intelligence in 1996, he requested if he could keep his government-issued computers because they contained his personal financial information and he did not own a personal computer to which the data could be transferred. This is difficult to understand today, but it was common at the time.
The government agreed to loan Deutch the computers on the condition that he work as an unpaid government adviser, refrain from using the computers for personal purposes, and purchase a computer to which he could transfer his personal data.
After a few years, it’s found that the government computers, which are now at Deutch’s Maryland house, were connected to the Internet and had sensitive information on their hard drives.
Family members had access to the computers, according to Deutch, including his wife, who “used this computer to prepare reports relating to official travel” alongside Deutch, and another family member who “used this computer to access a university library.”
The “other family member,” based on the reports at the time, was Deutch’s son, who, in addition to using university facilities, visited numerous “high-risk” porn sites, one of which had stored cookies on the work computer.
There was no proof that Deutch was selling government secrets or that the machines’ top-secret data had been hacked. Deutch’s security clearance was revoked as a result of the incident, and he agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material in exchange for a $5,000 fine (roughly $8,000 today).
Deutch was later pardoned before the court could execute the plea agreement, but the affair was clearly a major burden for Deutch and the CIA.
And if you believe Deutch’s tale is unique, or that fewer people are making the same error now that personal computers are so common, think again.
Then there’s the flip side: working from home on a personal device. According to a research released in June 2020 by cybersecurity provider Morphisec, 56 percent of employees use their own computer for work.
Based on a 2020 poll by antivirus software provider Kaspersky, 57% of respondents accessed work email on their personal smartphone, while 36% worked on their own laptop or desktop. Only 30% of those polled stated they had never used a work gadget for personal purposes.
However, keep in mind that survey respondents may not always provide totally correct information. They may have forgotten about past incidents or withheld facts out of embarrassment or fear of repercussions.
Coworkers May Be Watching You
If Deutch’s account isn’t enough to make you think twice about using a company-issued gadget for personal purposes, consider this: as more employees work from home owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, more employers are monitoring behavior on corporate devices.
Do you want to risk having a coworker see your private images, read your texts or emails, or gain access to your confidential documents? You don’t, believe me.
It’s A Headache To clean A Work Machine
Even if nothing “serious” happens, blurring the barriers between personal and professional technology can cause issues.
When you get a new machine, what happens? What happens if you change occupations? You’ll need to remove your personal data from the work machine in both circumstances before returning it to IT. The process can be exceedingly hard and time-consuming, depending on how much personal data has accumulated on the device and how you’ve arranged it.
Furthermore, just copying and erasing personal data will not provide comprehensive privacy protection. To truly keep your personal information private, you’d have to delete or physically destroy the machine’s hard disk, which will most likely raise red flags with your company’s IT department.
If you don’t copy everything and the machine’s drive is wiped or destroyed as part of your employer’s computer equipment disposal policy, you risk losing access to your data forever.
Mixing Personal And Professional Tech Is A NO-NO
It’s difficult to resist grabbing your work laptop or tablet from the kitchen table and using it to assist your children with their homework or finish that house loan application you’ve been working on. For the past year, so many of us have worked from our living rooms and kitchen tables that the border between business and home life has never been more blurred.
Many hardware manufacturers have capitalized on this reality by selling their products as being capable of handling both work and play in a secure manner. Even with these remedies, there’s just one way to ensure we don’t meet the same fate as Deutch: keep our job and personal technology separate. And there are plenty of excellent laptops, cellphones, and tablets available to assist us.