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Ask Slashdot: Using Company Laptop For Personal Use

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home dept.

Security 671

An anonymous reader writes "I'm starting a new job soon, and I will be issued a work laptop. For obvious reasons I cannot name any names, but I can state that I do expect my employer to have tracking software on the laptop, and I expect to not be the administrator on the device. That being said, I am not the kind of person who can just 'not browse the internet.' If I ever have to travel with this laptop, I may want to read an ebook or watch a movie or maybe even play a game. I can make an image of the drive, then wipe the machine, and restore it back to its former state if I ever have to return it. I can use portable apps off a usb key and browse in private mode. The machine will be encrypted, but I can also make myself my own little encrypted folder or partition perhaps. Are there any other precautions I could or should take?"

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No (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239951)

I can make an image of the drive, then wipe the machine, and restore it back to its former state if I ever have to return it.

Is your new job worth it? Not saying you'll automatically lose your job over that, but I can't imagine it'll go over well. Especially as you'd be using your (non-work prepared) laptop for doing work and might inadvertantly put them at risk (the kind of risk they hope to eliminate by issuing you the laptop in the first place).

The simple solution is get yourself a USB / livecd type distro. Don't touch the hard drive.. and if it's encrypted, you shouldn't be putting your company at risk (assuming you don't use the same key for anything else). Personally I'd ask your IT guys if they are ok with this before doing it. Sometimes they can actually be reasonable about this kind of stuff.

The real solution here is to leave your work laptop alone completely and get your own laptop for personal use.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240025)

To add to this, anyone can pick up a jolly decent pre-owned machine for seriously little money.

Re:No, there's no need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240265)

The parent correctly points out that you can use a live distro and avoid having to touch the company's hard drive. If you need a lot of personal data, you can use the cloud.

Your phone has a lot of the capabilities that a laptop used to have. You don't need to use the employer's hard drive for personal purposes because there are easily available alternatives.

Re:No, there's no need (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240323)

The parent correctly points out that you can use a live distro and avoid having to touch the company's hard drive.

Maybe, maybe not. There may be key-loggers installed which still grab your keystrokes.
Further, you can set up machines to prevent booting from anything other than the hard drive, then lock the bios.

Re:No, there's no need (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240377)

I would take any of that as a sign that your employer is serious about controlling their equiptment and trying to subvert their control is a sure way to find your stuff in a box at reception when you get back from your trip.

In other words, a sign to buy your own laptop ;p

Re:No (5, Informative)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240283)

Agreed. As an IT Director, I can tell you I would be pissed someone took company inventory and did this.
Security is based off of locking down that laptop so you dont do something stupid like install a "free game" with a trojan in it.
Not that I dont trust employees to know better, but I dont trust ALL employees to know better. A breach only takes one infected system.

Re:No (5, Insightful)

Collapsing Empire (1268240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240375)

Once you lose physical control of a machine, you really can't say much about the security of it. You don't know where that laptop has been or who else might have tampered with it while it has been traveling the globe. The best you can really do is the standard antivirus scans. But that doesn't stop a 0-day or a custom written trojan.

You really ought to be treating all portable devices as potentially hostile devices and securing (and monitoring) your networks accordingly.

IMO if the user is competent enough to install Linux or their own custom Windows image on there, I don't think you are any worse off than it was previously. Seeing how out of date some IT departments are with patching and service packs, the machine may end up being more secure.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240311)

First, we don't know what industry this guy is in and who his employer is - or his position for that matter. If he works for the FBI, CIA, or etc, then that's one thing. If he just works for a typical American corporation, then that's another.

My company wouldn't care. We don't track laptops, and even if we did, we'd only pull the information if you reported the laptop stolen. We aren't staffed to actively monitor the laptops of 100 salesmen, 20 executives, 400 middle management people, and etc.

If your job entails holding a lot of highly sensitive information on your machine, then maybe they do track you and it is in your best interest to cooperate, and maybe you would want to avoid a lot of uncomfortable questions if the authorities recovered the laptop and did forensics. That's really the only situation where I can see there being merit to avoiding personalization of the laptop.

If you feel your employer is really out to get you, then maybe you shouldn't really work for them.

Otherwise I say just reimage the drive or just swap out the drives for your own. That's what I've done. Been this way for about 7 months and nobody has said a peep to me.

Simplest is goodest. (3, Insightful)

blackicye (760472) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240349)

Buy yourself another laptop.

Second hard drive - swap them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240393)

Just buy a second hard drive and swap them out. Make sure you have two of the right size screwdriver in your laptop bag in case you lose one.

Takes maybe 3 minutes per swap once you've done it a few times.

Of course, you *could* ask your employer (A) if that's OK, and (B) what their policies are for people who travel. You won't be the first person to ever face this problem with them.

Don't go there... (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239955)

Just get a Tablet/Netbook of your choice and use that for web surfing, personal email, video and music streaming, etc.

Its a far more honest way of going about it, and by shopping around you will find a tablet that fits your needs, and can be slipped into the same carrying case the laptop uses. You may only need a wifi model, but tablets with data plans are not that expensive. You can add encryption to the tablet, if you want.

This gives you the freedom to do as you wish, and you can still move things back and forth between the tablet and the laptop as needed via any number of means when you have a legitimate reason to do so.

If you expect there to be tracking software on the machine out of the gate, then trying to go down the deception road is just a Bad Idea. Key loggers will log what ever you do, and removing them is not likely to go unnoticed. Key loggers things, if properly installed, can even read work you do in a USB thumb-drive based Linux distribution. And depending on how savvy your company's IT department is you may find any attempt to use the laptop in way other than what was intended will trigger alarms. Wiping the drive and restoring it to some back level state amounts to an admission you were doing something you weren't supposed to do. And you may not be given the opportunity to do so, when IT walks in (or accesses it remotely) to do a routine upgrade, and finds all sorts of ebooks and games, etc.

Nope, my advice is to celebrate your first pay check with a gift to yourself of that Tablet or Netbook you've always wanted. This way, you and your employer stay on each other's good side.

Re:Don't go there... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239997)

Agreed. It's THEIR notebook, not yours. They bought it. It belongs to them. They have loaned it to you for work purposes. Don't abuse that by messing around with it.

If you want to do other stuff, buy your own notebook, tablet or smartphone.

Re:Don't go there... (1, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240255)

Agreed. And if you happen to recollect that you have to stop by the grocery store on your way from work while driving your company's car, park it at home, get into your own vehicle and only then go shopping, because that's clearly the most reasonable thing to do.

Re:Don't go there... (1)

jjp9999 (2180664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240113)

And even if you do wipe your notebook and this works, it will look weird when they look at it and ask you why it has no work logged on it.

Re:Don't go there... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240157)

Key loggers things, if properly installed, can even read work you do in a USB thumb-drive based Linux distribution.

Thats weird, unless you're talking about a hardware logger, and thats even weirder because most laptops don't have space for it. Plug in a USB keyboard?

Re:Don't go there... (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240341)

Key logging can also be done in BIOS.

Buy your own (-1, Flamebait)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239957)

Buy your own laptop to fuck around with you cheap bastard. The laptop is the property of your employer and if you don't agree to the terms they set then don't work for them.

Re:Buy your own (4, Insightful)

ribit (952003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239995)

We don't know what the terms or the job are. If you travel a lot with work, having to haul two laptops around may be unreasonable.

Re:Buy your own (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240107)

Perhaps, but lugging around an iPad or similar tablet won't add much. It's also probably a better device for things like reading a book, watching a movie or quickly checking email.

As others have suggested, a live CD/USB distro could be used as an alternative OS if the OP needs more, assuming the laptop can boot from either. He could even boot from a portable hard drive.

Re:Buy your own (1)

ribit (952003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240395)

I found an iPad v1 really useful when I was working in an office where product security meant you weren't allowed to bring in your own laptop, or anything with a camera.

Re:Buy your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240159)

1) Sometimes it's possible to just haul your laptop and do work on it.
2) Some companies aren't fascists - you can certainly browse the internet, watch movies. Just don't do anything illegal or "bad PR" with it. For example even if browsing porn is legal for you, it might be "bad PR" (or not[1]).

[1] But just because the CEOs have tons of porn on their work laptops doesn't mean you can use your work laptop to view porn.

Re:Buy your own (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240313)

Modern laptops weigh between 1.25 an 3 kilograms. Power adapter is another 500 grams or so and unlike netbook, it can stay at your hotel.

If you need ultraportable, get a brazos netbook. Else get a ~1k "desktop replacement" laptop within 3kg weight range. You'll be able to even play decently modern games at high quality levels. Personally I just got a cheap 2.5kg brazos laptop as I hate small screens of netbooks/tablets but also wanted a long battery life while being able to play starcraft 2 every once in a while. E-450 does everything I want, and 15 inch screen is big enough to browse with reasonable comfort. Weight is a bit of an issue though.

Conclusion: hauling a second laptop is worth the freedom it affords. And there are enough choices on laptop specifics to suit both "as light and little as possible" as well as "I want to play games on the move" crowds and everyone in between.

Re:Buy your own (0)

Alomex (148003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240125)

During the Cold War we use to read this stories of people being sent to prison in the Soviet Union because they had used the "<fill item> of the people" for personal use and wonder how could people let a bureaucratic system run so amok that it wouldn't allow for this minor, victimless transgression of the rules.

Yet, here we are...

Re:Buy your own (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240149)

Except we're not.

Re:Buy your own (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240203)

Except most places I've worked (actually all places I've worked that involved computers) allow for "limited, personal use of company assets". This is obviously highly subjective, but in general it means using your companies computer/network to browse at lunch, using your companies phone system to call home to let them know you are going to be a little late for dinner, etc..

Obviously people push boundries (like using the companies large format printer to make a poster for their kid) .. but in general if you arn't torrenting / spending 4 hours a day browsing the web .. you're probably fine.

It's risky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239961)

I used to watch pr0n on my work laptop a lot until I was caught.

Wow (2, Insightful)

Isarian (929683) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239973)

You're kidding right? Don't be an idiot, follow the terms of your employer and get your own damned machine.

Re:Wow (1, Interesting)

rew (6140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239993)

So you enjoy lugging around two laptops when sent on a business trip?

Re:Wow (5, Insightful)

Alan Shutko (5101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240059)

Nope. But that's life.

In my case, I worked to get rid of the company-issued laptop in favor of citrixing into my desktop at work. That means I have to carry less, and since I'm not constantly on the road, works well for me.

Re:Wow (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240271)

Do you do your citrixing even when your laptop is out of range of public Wi-Fi? If so, how many cellular gigabytes per month does your citrixing use?

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240063)

"Lugging around"? Lol, he's not carrying a refrigerator, it's a laptop. He could carry two in the same case, and it's not like they weigh more than a few pounds each. Maybe if he can't handle that he should get a job as a hairdresser.

Re:Wow (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240073)

They keep getting smaller. A pad or a netbook added to your bag is barely noticeable. Dual-core netbooks are awesome and cheap; just look for one with an Atom N550.

Re:Wow (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240163)

Then get a smart phone?

I finished a project at a company doing a Windows 7 upgrade. The sales people were always pissed that we decided to put Windows 7 locked and encryped vs the full do whatever you want with XP laptops previously.

Buy your own of get a smart phone to browse your porn (assuming thats why he wants a second). You can thank the lawyers who invented sexual harrasement for these restrictions as well as the BSA. The employer has a right to look after their own self interests without being sued.

If he/she buys his or her own laptop with Office and VPN then they can do what they want and still get work done. If it is a shared drive issue then tough. Netbooks are tiny and can do skype and porn just fine. Sorry but the cool toys are not yours.

Re:Wow (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240167)

Try construction work for one year, then tell me how horrible it is to lug around 2 laptops.........

Re:Wow (2)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240223)

So you enjoy lugging around two laptops when sent on a business trip?

Not really, no; however, I do enjoy other things like having a job...and integrity.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240181)

Some employers are 'ok' with you surfing. Others are not. I have seen ones where it is 'we are having a get together at a bar' look it up to find the address 'you have violated the corporate policy'. Others you can surf porn and no one will care. It depends on the place you work at. Usually the bigger the company (and the longer it has been around) the more restrictive the policies are. New startup company and they usually do not have any exp with it and just let you do whatever. Go to some fortune 500 that has been around since 1900 and you will find it very locked down.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240371) wonder HR departments are having such a hard time dealing with the new generation of "it's all about me" people:

Perhaps (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39239975)

Ultimately, it depends on your company policy. Where I work, there is a policy about reasonable personal use of company property, and as long as we stay within those boundaries, we are in no danger of running afoul of our management.

Re:Perhaps (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240041)

Even if such a policy existed, I'd do everything that was personal use related in the browser, (gmail account, or something similar), and not have the machine remember passwords, and set it to clear the browser cache upon close.

I'd use a different browser for work related stuff.

I'd never install anything on the machine itself for personal use. To hard to remove totally when the company "upgrades" your laptop and re-purposes the old one. (Or should you switch jobs).

Read the policy (5, Informative)

Jethro (14165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39239999)

Read your company's employee handbook and policies. it's very likely that they allow "limited personal use". Just don't do anything stupid like watching porn or pirating stuff on the thing.

If you have any doubts about running any specific software on it, talk to your boss or call HR. They should know what the company's policies are.

I have a work-issued laptop. I'm allowed to browse the internet on it so long as it's a reasonable amount, and the corporate image came with media players, including a DVD player, so I'm fairly sure I can watch movies/listen to music on it when I travel.

But I never do. I take my own personal laptop with me. It's just a lot more comfortable that way.

Re:Read the policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240365)

I happen to be an admin, and where I work there is a limited use policy in place. Users can check their personal email, FB, etc. Our company is quite liberal as to the use of the machines. Of course no admin level is given, but there is no spyware or anything like it installed. I know that we may be an exception....

Best idea is to have your own USB drive for personal stuff.

Dude, seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240009)

What everyone else said. It's not YOUR laptop.

But if you absolutely MUST use it for personal stuff, just make a boot CD or boot pen and do your personal stuff in a separate OS that doesn't even touch the work machine's hard drive.

Using Company Laptop For Personal Use (0)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240033)


Next Question.

Grow up (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240043)

As others have said, it's not yours to mess about with and that crap about 'I just can't not surf the web' - jeeze, grow up already. Use your own kit for your non work related computer activities.

Read policy (2)

minstrelmike (1602771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240045)

If your company policy is 'limited personal use," then you're covered.
That's a range of behavior. I would _NOT_ create encrypted partitions or do anything that would look like you're trying to hide stuff.
That's a big red flag and may get you noticed. Most of the time, they aren't going to examine your browsing history. Too much other stuff to do.

Legally, no one is sure what the 'limited' part of personal use means. Facebook and Slashdot and reading email and news items are probably okay.

Just don't do anything you wouldn't want your mother to see. If so, get your own netbook or option2: make a bootable Ubuntu USB stick and boot from it.

Get your own computer! (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240047)

Wouldn't it just make sense to spend a few hundred bucks and get your own computer instead of risking your job for no good reason?

Re:Get your own computer! (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240307)

And how many bucks for a laptop bag that holds two laptops? And how many bucks for gym training so that you won't notice a second laptop?

Bad Idea (1)

The Bringer (653232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240049)

My recommendation to you would be to leave the computer alone. Use it for work purposes only. It doesn't belong to you, therefore you have no entitlement for using it outside of the purpose for which it was given to you. That being said, talk to your IT guy, get an idea of how strict they are with regards to personal usage of company assets. You might find they don't care as much as you think they do. In my workplace, I have a strict "If it doesn't effect your job performance or compromise the security of our assets, then I don't care" policy. It is pointless for me to waste time reprimanding employees for checking their personal email or Facebook accounts periodically. Don't abuse it and it will most likely never be an issue, but you're taking a major risk to your employment regardless.

Are you serious? (5, Insightful)

Pollux (102520) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240051)

If you're seriously thinking that you need to go through that much trouble to hide your "bad work habits," the problem really is you. You appear to be aware of your less-than-exceptional work habits. Reading between the lines, it almost appears as though you lost another previous job because of your self-distractions during work.

Rather than try and hide your browsing history, why not try working for a change? They are paying you to work, after all. And on periods of downtime, bring your own laptop.

use a live usb stick (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240053)

I would use a persistent live distribution of some operating system. Just boot it off the USB stick. Your company OS won't be touched.

Re:use a live usb stick (2)

spafbi (324017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240259)

If the laptop has eSATA (many do), I'd take it a step further and boot off an external hard drive or SSD. That way, after selecting your external drive as the temporary boot device, you'd be able to use whatever OS you choose without having to sacrifice performance. I strongly encourage you to not modify the operating system and software of your company's laptop. It's not worth the potential headaches of termination and/or diminished professional reputation.

Yep, don't do that...unless you're allowed to. (5, Informative)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240067)

I agree with everyone else. Trying to subvert your company's security policy, especially as a new employee, is an excellent way not to be an employee for very long. Just ask them if you're allowed to use the laptop for personal use. If they say no, then don't do it. If they say it depends, tell them what you have in mind. My employer wouldn't care if I was reading ebooks on it. Reasonable personal use also wouldn't be an issue. Messing around on FB on my own time? No problem. Browsing porn? Yeah, that's not going to be ok. Watching movies? Depends. DVD? Fine. Netflix (or anything else you have legit rights to)? Fine. Downloading them illegally to watch? Not a chance.

Basically, don't be an idiot.

Slow Nerd Day? (4, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240071)

The answer is so obvious to get your own laptop that I can't believe this even made it on the boards. Slow nerd day?

Re:Slow Nerd Day? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240319)

Do they even make laptop bags to carry two laptops, one for work and one for personal use?

Taking Company Resources For Granted (1)

darkfeline (1890882) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240079)

I'm glad to see /. takes this stance on this issue. A company issued machine is company resources; you don't use it for anything else. If you worked for UPS, would you customize your mail van with decals, nitrous injectors, &c.? If you worked at a restaurant, would you customize your uniform by dying it blue?

Yes there is (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240083)

Want to browse porn?

Bring your own laptop or smart phone.

Want to hack, code for fun or use online banking?

Bring your own laptop or smart phone.

Subverting and sabatoging company equipment is not only a firable offense, but it is immoral and unethical. Yes the HR weenies will consider this sabatoge and hacking if you dick around with encrypted system volumes and corporate mandated software. It is not yours and belongs to someone else. Your employer wont care if you browse cnn or read your gmail or maybe even use online banking.

Also, what if you fuck up and need help to get your laptop to work? What then? Call help desk and IT? They will see what you did and your will be screwed. Meanwhile that report that needs to be worked on while you are on the road is still due and you will be screwed.

If you can get a discoutned smart phone you still technically own it and can do whatever you want. This is life and the employer has a right to specify what you can do on his own equipment just like you wouldn't do a special tune up and put a nitrogren accelerator in a company cars engine. It is the same concept

2nd os on your own drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240085)

Personally, I'd either add a 2nd hard drive or get an external drive to install some other OS on the machine. Linux, windows, whatever. Doesn't really matter. Just dual boot the thing, make sure that the boot loader is on the original hard drive and when it comes time to hand the laptop back over, simply remove your personal hard drive.

Someone else's laptop (1)

gremlinuk (454089) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240091)

Basically, this is someone else's laptop.

If you've been loaned a machine for a specific purpose, why would you expect to be able to use for a bunch of entirely unrelated stuff?

Travel with two laptops if you must, or get a slim tablet (I hesitate to specify a brand for so many reasons) if weight is a bother.

boot off a USB fob when you're "off the clock" (4, Informative)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240095)

When I am stuck traveling with the company laptop, I bring along a bootable USB fob with the latest Linux Mint on it and use that when I'm "off the clock." Some companies will try to lock down the bios so you can't even do that (forces the encrypted HD to boot first). So if that's the case, I'd just bring your own laptop/tablet along and call it a day.

I don't agree with companies to do this kind of thing, but in these economic times it's not worth losing a job over.


Miranda (2)

Jazari (2006634) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240101)

Anything you do on a computer which doesn't belong to you may be used against you in a court of law.

Carry a live-VD, buy a tablet, or use any other means to do your personal computing. Never use someone else's computer to log into your email accounts, surf, etc. And if you think you have "nothing to hide" and can't even imagine how it could be used against you, then you *definitely* need to heed this advice.

I am absolutely stunned (4, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240103)

I know people will go to great lengths to complain about their "right" to abuse company resources for their own benefit, but this takes the cake.

You want to WIPE the company hard drive and all the software that is provided for you to do your job, and you don't see a fundamental flaw in this reasoning?

You, sir, are a selfish, greedy, ignorant, and probably USELESS fuck who shouldn't be hired by ANYONE.

Re:I am absolutely stunned (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240123)

I mean, seriously. A new job, and your first concern seems to be "how can I steal my company laptop and use it for myself."

Re:I am absolutely stunned (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240205)

Even worse is that someone this clueless got the job at all:

I expect to not be the administrator on the device.

But he thinks he'll be able to repartition the hard-drive? Really?

Re:I am absolutely stunned (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240249)

...and yes, I know that if you can boot into another OS and If the drive isn't encrypted (both unlikely) there might be a way. But the words "grounds for dismissal" come to mind.

Another tale... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240109)

..of a failed interview. The interview went so well - the newly hired employee wakes up and shows his true colors.

Shame that the industry is full of such people :(

Comply to the rules or quit (1)

heatseeker_around (1246024) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240111)

You chose this job. You know the rules. If you disagree with the rules, maybe it means that this employer work policies are not meant for you. You should search for an other job and quit. Otherwise, use your OWN laptop for personal stuff. Travel with 2 laptops, or a tablet, or whatever you use at home. Use your PERSONAL laptop for PERSONAL stuff (porn movies, bit torrent downloads, participating to DDOS attacks as an Anonymous peon, taking photos of your penis in the hotel room, etc.) and use your PROFESSIONAL laptop for PROFESSIONAL stuff ONLY. What is hard to understand ?

Get your own laptop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240121)

Get a second laptop for personal use - just a small netbook to keep with you at work. Any surfing on the *work* laptop should be either directly related to work or something so innocuous that you wouldn't mind if both your boss and grandmother looked at it with you.

At the same time, don't use your personal laptop for work-related things. No work code files. No transferring files via USB drives. No direct use of the corporate network.

Both the corporation and you are much better of with complete separation! Trying to carve out your own private area on your work laptop might work, but you'll look like a sneak if you're caught.

Nooooooo! (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240135)

At some point your machine will go in for repair and some techy will get a laugh or possibly report what books/movies/porn and websites you have been accessing.
As others have stated, either use your own laptop or get a USB/CD/DVD live distribution which can run without touching the company drive.

Locked (2)

Zemran (3101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240139)

If their choice of hardware and ability of IT staff are good you will be unable to do anything as the settings should be locked (password protected) and it should not boot from anything other that the disk they set up. If they are useless enough to allow you in then I have little sympathy for them but they will not see it like that. I remember one company that I worked at where I could not do my job because I did not have the software I needed installed. After a few days I installed it myself (using the correct install disk which was waiting on my desk but involved changing the Admin password). It was 2 weeks before IT came along and I got into a lot of trouble. The fact that I would have been doing nothing for 2 weeks and I had customers that needed my work etc. did not count for anything against an established IT manager given that I was obviously a "Hacker". It is not really worth the risk unless you are a belligerent trouble maker like me.

Live CD & USB-Stick (1)

stiebing.ja (836551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240147)

Thats it. Just use a (customized) Live CD for the system and an USB stick for your data, if possible, else use online storage like SpiderOak with your live CD. That also saves you from surfing the web in the time where you should work ;-)
(If you are not allowed to use CDs, a disk image will save you neither.)

This was approved... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240165)

But my ridiculous pro-Ubuntu 11.10 story wasn't?

I mean, I intentionally wrote it so I could sound like a stuffed up, pompous linux fanboy with a severe case of solipsism, and it got rejected. How the hell did that happen?

How about a LiveCD (1)

naturaverl (628952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240169)

The prior suggestions to just get a 2nd laptop or netbook for your own personal use may be the most ethical. But from your original post I gather that that is not your concern. So...

Assuming that laptop does in fact have tracking software that can report on the applications that are running and/or be used to send screenshots back to your employer, your ideas to run standalone apps from a USB drive would only land you in "trouble" because the screenshots would still show "rogue activity". The other idea of imaging the whole HDD, re-installing, and imaging back sounds like more hassle than it's worth. But at least from this I know that your BIOS isn't locked down to the extent that you can't boot from external media. So...

What I would suggest is to run a standalone OS from a USB thumb drive or CD / DVD. In doing this, you can run the alternate OS of your choosing, while sidestepping the considerable hassle of creating the backup image, installing the other OS... Here [] is a rather comprehensive list from which you can choose. Knoppix, Ubuntu, or Mint are the ones I would try first.

swap the hdd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240185)

That's the only way to be sure

wrong on so many levels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240193)

1) most work computers these days have disabled USB ports, or limited function (it will work with a mouse, but not a memory device).
2) full disk encryption is the rule, and if you stick your USB drive in (or your MP3 player), the software will helpfully encrypt it for you, rendering it useless for anything else.
3) Keep your work stuff and your personal stuff separate! put work stuff on your own laptop, and you've basically given work permission to do anything they want to your laptop, including remotely bricking it. And you'll be violating umpty zillion GOOD policies designed to keep information confidential. Put YOUR stuff on your work computer and a) you're using work assets for personal gain, which may or may not be verboten for you, but is a bad practice; b) there's the whole "shop right" thing for intellectual property... use employer's stuff to invent or create something and they have a license to use it for free, even if it's not in their line of business; c) your work can freely rummage through your stuff.
4) if your work stuff and personal stuff overlap in content at all (say you do software development on your own on your spare time, and that's what you do at work too, as opposed to, say, flipping burgers) you're letting yourself in for a whole world of IP ownership hell. You could literally wind up unemployable, because nobody will want to take on the risk of having to get involved in a nasty trade secret dispute between you and your former employer. All it takes is a off-hand comment from previous company to HR weenie or hiring manager at the new company about "we're contemplating legal action against Mr Smith", and instantly, your resume just went to the round file, and you'll never, never hear why. There's enough "unencumbered" applicants around that they don't even have to think about it.

Depends on the employer.... (1)

achbed (97139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240195)

...but if you wipe the drive and install your own OS, or alter the machine in any way, you will be (a) fired, (b) sued, or in the case of some government agencies, (c) jailed.

What part of "Company Issued" do you not understand? IT IS NOT YOURS. Don't mess with it, if you'd like to keep your job and your freedom.

If the company/agency you work for is encrypting the hard drive, you're not working in a place that will tolerate ANY kind of tampering, even dual-boot. This may be for some combination of paranoia, trade secrets, legally-sensitive data, or national security. In any case, don't mess with it. Accept it and move on as a term of employment/

Get yourself a personal netbook, tablet, or smartphone and live with it. Or, go find yourself another job - one that allows you to hack company-issued hardware.

Don't Do It (1)

snowcat1964 (1549097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240197)

Don't do anything with the company notebook except work for the company. That is it's purpose. If you use it for person use then you may cause issues with the system that may cost the company resources to repair the damage. In the past I have always purchased my own notebook and used it for company stuff, but I was the IT Manager. But when I was just a developer I used the company units and travelled with two notebooks, which is a pain at airport security. Pick up a tablet or netbook for your own personal use. frank

Short Answer: Don't (3, Informative)

monk (1958) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240199)

Long Answer: Reword you request and the risk becomes a little clearer. "I'm starting a new job soon, and I will be issued equipment which I have agreed not to use for personal use. I am compelled to use it for personal use anyway. How can I do that." You have to first weight the cost and the benefit. Is surfing the web worth losing your new job?

On the other hand, screw Greyface, here's how you do it. Don't try any of the approaches you've mentioned. If they have tracking software installed they may have software keyloggers and remote desktops as well. They MAY have hardware keyloggers. They probably don't, but that's the risk you're taking.

Get an live Linux distro [] you can boot off of USB, one that allows you to store stuff back to the USB stick. Damn Small Linux [] is a good one. Do your personal stuff EXCLUSIVELY when booted to the stick. That's about the best you can do. Best of luck. May the Source be with you.

They might be tracking your movements as you go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240201)

If you assume they are going to be putting monitoring software on the device, you certain can't make the assumption that it won't tell them what you've been up to the first time it connects to a wi-fi hotspot.

Second drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240213)

Why not just buy a second drive and load an OS and apps you want/need. The swap is simple and only takes a minute or two and it negates all the other issues.

Boot from VHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240215)

If it's a Windows 7 machine you can create a VHD (virtual hard disk) and boot from that. I believe you can even bitlocker it so that your employer won't be able to decrypt it. Other than that I'd say boot from USB. That's if you have to keep everything totally separate.

I thought most employers who send people on the road with a laptop are more sensible about this, and as long as you don't do anything illegal and you don't accidentally show off your porn bookmarks in meetings you should be fine. If that's the case then a separate non-work user account should be sufficient.

External Drive? (1)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240231)

Reformatting and replacing the system image that's provided for you does not strike me as a good idea. Perhaps your best bet is to get a speedy external drive and boot off of it when you absolutely need personal privacy.

Re:External Drive? (1)

cjjjer (530715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240327)

Actually they could have him charged with the destruction of private and intellectual property if he does what he is saying. Best solution so far would be to use a LiveCD and buy a 16+GB USB key to store the settings and such on it.

Or like others have mentioned just buy a tablet if it's just for entertainment purposes anyway.

Not yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240241)

It's not your laptop, you are not entitled to mess around with it.

That said, if you can boot from the disc drive or usb (if it hasn't been disabled in the BIOS) you could probably get away with a linux liveCD/USBStick. Actually doing anything to the hard drive itself is likely to ruin it.

The very fact that you'd consider it would make me want to fire you if you were working for me. If you are working, you use the work-provided equipment on work time. If you are not working, use your own equipment on your own time.

(Saying this as someone who had one parental unit use work gear for personal reasons all the damn time and was busted once, not by being stupid about it, but because the boss literately went out of his way to waste company time to spy on my parent during lunch. So what I'm telling you is that your boss might be a dick and look for an excuse to powertrip if you do anything to the laptop.)

It's not your property. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240251)

Just to re-iterate the dozen or so replies so far...

Don't fuck with the companies laptop. It doesn't belong to you. It's not your property. The companies disk image may be configured a specific way for security reasons; you can't just make changes to it without asking permission. As for tracking and keylogging, some companies use keylogging software to measure productivity. If you bypass the software, then you're productivity will appear to be ZERO.

For personal use on trips buy a tablet or netbook -- something light and thin that you can slip in along side the company laptop in your baggage.

Separate OS. (1)

rew (6140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240267)

The easiest ways of "keeping tabs" on a company laptop would be to install stuff like a keylogger and browser-history-catcher in the operating system.

That is unlikely to work if you install a new operating system. i.e. resize the partition where the main OS lives, and install a whole new OS instance on the free space. Best would be to install Linux while the rest runs mircosoft stuff. But installing your own copy of the microsoft stuff should work too. That would be reasonably convenient and reasonably safe. Of course it might not fit your definition of "reasonably safe" (or for "reasonably convenient").

Don't do it. Carry your own laptop. (5, Informative)

ChrisKnight (16039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240269)

If I may, I'd like to address a couple of assumptions in your post:

"I can make an image of the drive, then wipe the machine, and restore it back to its former state if I ever have to return it."
You can't guarantee this. I am on the security team at my company. When a person is being let go they called into a meeting and someone collects their laptop or desktop while they are in the meeting. In only one case have we allowed someone to access their system after it was collected, and that was under supervised conditions. We pull the laptop hard drive, label it, and shelve it. If that were your drive, we could have your personal information sitting on a shelf for years, waiting for someone to access it. While this didn't happen to me, a friend of mine was asked to peruse the hard drive of a terminated employee, and what she found led to criminal charges being filed against the ex employee. Not saying you would do anything illegal, but never put yourself in a situation where someone else has unlimited and unrestricted access to your personal data.

Also, this could be a violation of company policy and could be grounds for disciplinary action.

"I can use portable apps off a usb key and browse in private mode."
Yes, you can, but that doesn't mean you can bypass any monitoring or filtering software installed on the machine.

"Are there any other precautions I could or should take?"
It's just not worth the hassle, and potential employment repercussions, to modify your company owned system. I have two laptops that go with me everywhere. One is my work laptop, the other is my personal laptop. I keep both realms deliberately separated. Buy yourself a Macbook Air, or other maybe just a tablet since you mostly indicate you are browsing. Keep your work and personal life separate.

Common Sense and Company Policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240279)

Know the company policy and apply common sense. It is unlikely that while staying at a hotel they would care if you looked at cnn or slashdot. Most policies seem to be "limited personal use" and this is where common sense applies.

Surfing the web ok, surfing for porn bad.
Playing flash games ok, installing games bad.
Streaming hulu/netflix at the hotel ok, streaming at work bad.
Watching a dvd ok, watching an illegally ripped anything bad.
Installing anything outside of browsers and plugins (And even then that might be bad) is a bad idea. Trying to use USB to circumvent company policy is a terrible idea. If in doubt and about to travel ask your manager or IT what you can and can't do. Some companies have iron-fisted approach to computer management others do not.

Don't sweat reasonable use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240281)

unless of course the company has an explicit policy against it.

Surfing news sites, Slashdot and other tech sites, ESPN, Facebook, Linkedin, personal email - OK

Occasional casual games like minesweeper - OK

Short YouTube videos like movie trailers and stupid pet tricks - OK

Porn sites - definitely not OK

Making inflammatory posts on political web sites - not OK

Watching streamed movies or live sports events - probably not OK

FPS and other long, involved games - probably not OK

This is pretty much common sense. Remember, everyone has to live by the same rules, and no one wants to be told that they can't check out the sports scores (men) or Oscar nominations (women).

tried asking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240285)

I see a lot of reasonable comment about legality and issues and such but not the single comment that makes sense:

just ask them, politely and focusing on your traveling issues.

Here's how to do it (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240293)

First, this is the wrong way, but it works.
Use VMware player to install an OS image of your choice. Oh, but you don't have admin rights, so you might have to use QEMU. The networking might be an issue if you can't install the networking drivers, so you might have to find a way around that. Maybe USB? But once you have a VM with networking you can do anything in it with relative impunity. Your host will probably use a proxy (transparent or otherwise) so you still can't browse porn.

The right way is to get your own damn laptop. Newegg has them for under $500 (17" too!). I have to question your judgement if you in this economy would chose to use your laptop over a job. Also, if you do anything enterprising on your VM, your company can claim ownership of that too (if they know you have it). So just be smart and use your own laptop.

Get a secondary hard drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240295)

You could swap out the work drive and replace it with a new one with your own os on it. You'll be able preserve your own settings and files easier.

Not "Your Rights On-line" (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240299)

First off, I'm reassured at all the "get another device" replies. That's about the only sensible option you have, if you're reading your employment agreement properly (read it closely if you haven't already, as some have suggested).

Secondly, this is not remotely a "Your Rights On-line" issue, as it has been tagged by someone. This is contract law. You agreed to rights and restrictions under that contract when you signed the employment agreement. You waived any rights you think you had when you signed it. If you want to violate that contract, you need to renegotiate (or should have negotiated better terms in the first place), or should cancel the contract as per its terms (or via a legal defense like fraud, duress, or mistake) and find something else to do. Or, you pay the penalty for breach. Your choice.

Regardless, what you are asking shows a remarkable ignorance of "your rights" anywhere, and you should look to secure better terms in the future if an agreement is unpalatable to your lifestyle.

School up, brother, and good luck.

Do It and Show It Off! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240321)

Here's what you do: wipe the hard disk; install an OS and apps of your choosing -- be sure sure to include an assortment of cracked, pirated, warez and other forms of illegitimate software; remove any and every password you can find; don't forget to disable TPM while your're at it; get rid of any firewall software; anitvirus software only annoys you - ditch it all; and if you have any spare components around your house be sure to upgrade it (or downgrade it if you happen to have a personal use for some of the parts in it). Then take your new and improved laptop to your boss and/or IT department and show it off. As you're being escorted to the door by security you can reflect on what an idiot you are and vow to yourself to not be so stupid again at your next job. (Hopefully you did this your first week on the job so you won't have a gap in your resume).

Swap HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240331)

Two popular ways I see are to:
1) get a second hard drive and use it as your base system for personal use. Just swap them out between tasks.
2) Install VMware and virtualize the corporate image. Use the hypervisor or main system for your personal use and the VM for all things work-releated.

Alternatively (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240333)

You can carry the USB key with you, and just swap laptops as needed.

Common Sense (2)

buckeyeguy (525140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240343)

If you have a laptop that has remote admin/update software like Altiris on it, you'll probably screw up the PC if you start messing with partitions, folders, settings, etc. Would recommend against that. My latest work laptop (c/o the Fortune 25 company I work for) has the disk encryption, but no USB block or oppressive admin rights, and no huge caveats except to not install unlicensed software on it.

As for general use, are you traveling a lot? Employees that travel tend to have a bit more leeway with the use of their PC, browsing should be no big deal, but I would still recommend not loading up games or media on it. Get a smartphone or 2nd PC for that. And have some common sense; no porn browsing, period.

OT: sounds like there are a lot of 'bosses' on this thread ;0

Yes. (1, Troll)

dalias (1978986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240353)

Yes, please feel free to do this. Get your dumbass self fired so somebody with a clue can have your job.

Is the employer really that draconian? (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240369)

The other posters have covered well the fact that you really shouldn't try to work around the employer's policies. Getting caught is likely, and almost certainly grounds for termination. Don't go there.

That said, you should find out what the employer's policies actually are, rather than just assuming they're going to be insane. I've had a company-issued laptop since the mid-90s, with several different employers, and none of them have done what you describe. Moreover, I've also spent years consulting with dozens of companies about their IT security policies, including management of laptop use, and none of them have approached it the way you describe, either.

Most employers care about (in decreasing order of importance):

1. The security of their data. There are lots of good reasons for this, obviously. This includes things like full-disk encryption to ensure that if the laptop is lost the data it might carry is not revealed, and mal-ware prevention in order to prevent mal-ware from revealing important data.

2. The security of their network. Since you'll bring the laptop into the office and connect it to the network, employers don't want the laptop to be a vector for malware or targeted attacks.

3. Preventing HR problems. Stuff like porn on screens in the office can create sexual harassment lawsuits. This is the primary reason for anti-porn rules.

4. Productivity. Misuse of company equipment on company time means (arguably) that productive work that should be done isn't. This is another reason for anti-porn and anti-surfing rules.

Different companies take different approaches to managing these risks. A common, if very authoritarian, approach to limiting malware, for example, is to allow only software which is specifically approved by IT to be installed on the machine. Keylogging doesn't really accomplish any of the above, however, and I've never seen any company who does it, with the exception of one company that installs a browser plugin which watches for users typing their corporate password into non-company web sites.

If you're using the laptop at home, on your own time, I don't think most employers will care if you surf a little, check your personal e-mail, watch Netflix, etc. They may or may not care if you surf porn. I think most would rather not know. Outside of that, if it doesn't require changing the security configuration of the laptop, doesn't require installing software and doesn't interfere with productive work, I doubt they're going to care.

Check out the policy carefully, ask questions to make sure you understand it, and then comply with it. But I would be surprised if the policy truly is as draconian as you say.

Get a lawyer (-1)

Dainsanefh (2009638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240373)

Don't listen to advice about wasting money on a new laptop that you will only need for one time. That money should spend on more appropriate ways like paying off your credit card or student loan debt.

Get a lawyer to look your employment terms, and if he saids OK for you to do whatever you want, then do whatever you want. IF you get fired you may be able to get rich by suing the company to chapter 7, which they will deserve it anyway for draconian poliicies.

Capitalism does not work in 21st century. Unfrotunately the brain cancer state of most people in the USA wants it. In a normal society people should be able getting paid for doing their OWN thing. Unionized IT work force is the way to go.

Don't do that (1)

archen (447353) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240391)

Like others have stated, I wouldn't even try to do this. That said, if I were going to do this, I'd try installing an OS on a usb drive and boot from there. I'm not sure if Windows supports that, but Linux and BSD can. That also requires you can specify the boot device in the BIOS.

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