A 2011 survey found that over half of US employers are monitoring their employees’ computer usage. How can you find out if you are one of them? And if you are, what should you do about it?
There are two main ways employers track computer usage — with monitoring software on your desktop, and by watching the traffic on the corporate network. Also, many companies have written guidelines about Internet usage and may indicate if they are monitoring you. HR departments should have these policies available for employee review.
Monitoring Software on Your Computer
Monitoring software tracks all your activity and sends logs to the boss or IT department. Without your knowledge, they may be receiving reports listing the websites you visit, time spent in specific software programs, or even how much you play solitaire. The programs that do this are myriad, but there are often signs that they’re running.
On a Windows machine:
First, look in the system tray and start up folder. Do you see programs with names like VNC or LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, Shadow, SpyAgent, Web Sleuth and Silent Watch. An IT person can choose to hide these programs from the user so they are not in the Start Menu, but many assume the user won’t look for them or know what these programs are.
The Windows taskbar often lists all the actively running programs. Check all the icons in the taskbar in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and make sure you know what each program is.
The Windows Firewall must give monitoring programs permission to send and receive information. Search ‘firewall’, open it, click ‘exceptions’ or ‘add program’. Then look to see if any of the above-mentioned programs or any programs that are unknown to you have permission to pass through the ports.
Open Finder and look under applications , click ‘utilities’ and launch ‘activity monitor’. Search for unknown processes or any with VNC in the name.
If you see something in any of these places that you’re unfamiliar with, search it online to see if it’s a monitoring program.
(Sidenote- many of these monitoring programs can be purchased off the shelf and used to monitor home computers. These are also tools an ID thief could use on a public computer to collect data.)
If You Find Monitoring Software
If you do find any monitoring software on your work computer, do NOT try to remove it. Two reasons: first, doing so may make it look like you have something to hide, raising suspicions; second, your employer has a right to have this software installed on the computer. After all it’s their machine.
Monitoring Through The Network
The second way employers can monitor what you do on your computer is a lot harder to detect, because there’s no trace on your personal machine; it’s all done through the network. Employers can track the files you access on the corporate drives, the email you send through the company system, and the websites you visit via your work machine. And unless you have an “in” with the IT department, there’s virtually no way to know if your company is monitoring traffic this way.
EMAIL: If you are hunting for a new job or your employer is strict about use of corporate accounts for personal email, use web-based email. Most of the major providers encrypt webmail so it can’t be intercepted on the network.
SMARTPHONE: As long as you are connected over your cellular data connection (and not the company Wi-Fi), you can surf the web and send private email (on your non-corporate account) without detection.
ANONYMIZERS: There are services (usually for a fee — for example, anonymizer.com for $70) that will create a VPN or secure tunnel that hides all your traffic from the corporate network. These are handy tools to have if you need secure access to the Internet in unsecured locations like Wi-Fi cafes or public computers; they create a cloak around all IP addresses and data sent on the network. But an anonymizer may not hide your activity from a desktop monitoring program that grabs screen-shots, and many corporate IT departments forbid them and seek them out for removal from corporate machines.
This is a story about a corrupt law enforcement official and his accomplices. So many individuals were involved and there were several witnesses. How did this man think he would never be caught?
For those of you who were not born and raised in Texas, you may not be familiar with a constable. A Texas constable is a law enforcement officer who is elected by the county residents they serve. A constable and the constable’s deputies are the enforcement officers for the local Justice of the Peace. They are peace officers who have a lot of authority. The constable and deputy constables can make arrests, issue citations and are authorized to investigate any crime or traffic offense that happens in their presence or that a citizen reports to them.
Texas constable Fred Walker told the FBI he secretly bugged other official’s offices after they were accused of illegally forcing motorists to forfeit their cash, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Based on interviews conducted by FBI agents and Texas Rangers, the affidavit quotes the Shelby County Constable as saying he authorized the installation of hidden surveillance cameras and digital recorders despite not having the legal authority to do so.
The affidavit also includes a statement from a witness who claims Walker helped organize a scheme to sell drugs seized from suspects.
It’s just another chapter in a longtime drama in Tenaha, a town of 1,160 near the Louisiana border. Fred Walker,53, was Tenaha’s city marshal at the time of the alleged bugging. He was elected as constable in 2010.
Nearly $800,000 in cash has been seized from motorists stopped for traffic violations along U.S. Highway 59 in this town leading to lawsuits and a federal criminal investigation of the county’s former district attorney and other officials. (more…)
Yesterday, I let our readers know that Chicago CBS local news would be covering a story about Valentine’s Day and cheating spouses/partners. CBS 2′s Mai Martinez spent the day with the staff at MSI Detective Services to talk about why Valentine’s Day is such a busy day for private detectives. Martinez also visited the U-Spy Store (owned and operated by MSI Detective Services) for those wishing to purchase their own spy equipment.
If you missed the segment, you can watch the video by clicking on the link to this story at the end.
We expect florists to be busy on Valentine’s Day and candy to fly off the shelves, but did you know it’s also a busy holiday for private investigators?
Forget flowers and chocolates, all some people want for Valentine’s Day is to know if their significant other is cheating.
This is where Perry Myers and his team of private investigators at MSI Detective Services come in.
Theresa Cheriachangel keeps busy with her case load at MSI Detective Services. She said, “A case that I have going on today, she’ll be meeting her … boyfriend for a Valentine’s lunch, and her husband around the same vicinity, actually, for Valentine’s dinner.”
Wow, that is one busy woman. I couldn’t juggle two men let alone keep a straight face. I am a horrible liar.
Private investigators say the above scenario is often the case, making Valentine’s Day one of the best days to catch cheaters.
“As soon as they leave their house, until they come back, we’ll keep an eye on them,” Cheriachangel said.
For those who would rather do the detective work themselves, you can buy some of the same gadgets the pros use such as GPS trackers. “You can actually see where the car is in real time,” said Perry Myers, private detective and owner of MSI Detective Services and the U-Spy Store. (more…)
Brittney Baxter is just 7 years old, but she can sure put up a fight. She screamed and kicked her way out of a kidnapping attempt in an Atlanta area Walmart on Wednesday.
The Georgia girl was wandering through the Bremen Walmart toy aisle on when she narrowly escaped being kidnapped by a man police say recently finished a prison sentence. Her mother had stepped away for less than a couple of minutes to go to the fruit section. Within that short time frame, Thomas A. Woods, 25, of Austell, Ga., grabbed Brittney and tried to take her out of the store.
Fortunately, store video captured Woods trying to silence Brittney while she fought back. In an interview with ABC News, Brittney said, “I was screaming and kicking and trying to get away and he put his hand over my mouth.”
The video shows a man, believed to be Woods, approach Baxter and grab her, covering up the girl’s mouth and struggling to subdue her.
Woods decided this wasn’t going to be easy, so he dropped the girl and ran out of the store.
Even better, surveillance cameras outside the store captured Woods getting into his car. This allowed police to put out a detailed alert that resulted in Woods being caught by police. He was caught less than an hour later at his home in Tallapoosa, Ga., which is a town about 10 miles west of the store.
Last October, Woods completed a prison sentence for an involuntary manslaughter conviction dating back to when he was 17 years old. Woods is currently on probation, and claims he had nothing to do with Baxter’s attempted kidnapping. He denies being in the Walmart.
Woods has been charged with attempted kidnapping.
Brittney’s family is grateful their daughter is okay, and happy that she is such a fighter. “I’m very proud of her,” said her dad, Randall Baxter. “I just thank the Lord that she got away.” Brittney’s mother is still understandably very shaken and said she will now be afraid to let her daughter out of her sight.
In the ABC News interview, Brittney was asked if she had any advice to offer other children. Brittney said, “Always scream, try to scream and kick as hard as you can and go get someone you can trust.”
Good advice from Brittney and good for her for fighting back and not allowing herself to become another missing child victim and statistic.
How would you feel if you installed a security camera video system in your home for protection only to find out your private activities are being viewed live on the internet?
Video feeds from some home user’s Internet security cameras — including children’s rooms and bathroom scenes — are being seen by others around the world because of a coding error that is part of the camera’s software.
I would not want to be the programmer that has to explain this problem.
TrendNet security camera’s flaw was discovered after word of some shared footage spread on various message boards and blogs in the past month.
The BBC reported that messages about the flaw included the following:
“Someone caught a guy in Denmark (traced to ip) getting naked in the bathroom.” Another said: “I think this guy is doing sit-ups.”
One user wrote, “baby spotted,” causing another to comment, “I feel like a pedophile watching this.”
California-based TrendNet told the BBC that it’s in the process of releasing software updates to fix the problem, which it learned about on Jan. 12.
The company is also emailing those owners who registered their cameras. It’s not clear how many are affected. A company spokesman said it could be fewer than 1,000 consumers in the United Kingdom and globally “most likely less than 50,000.”
That’s a lot depending on how many people decide to file lawsuits. With The U.S. being such a litigious society, you can just see the lawsuits mounting now – depending on how many U.S. customers were affected.
Tech website The Verge wrote an extensive report about the exploit last Friday.
The vulnerability was first noted on a Jan. 10th blog said the BBC:
The author discovered that after setting up one of the cameras with a password, its video stream became accessible to anyone who typed in the correct net address.
In each case, this consisted of the user’s IP address followed by an identical sequence of 15 characters.
The writer then showed how the Shodan search engine (which specializes in finding online devices) could be used to discover cameras vulnerable to the flaw.
TrendNet plans to have revised firmware available this week. The company posted the following warning on its website on Monday informing users of the specific camera models and versions that have the flaw:
It is TrendNet’s understanding that video from select TrendNet IP cameras may be accessed online in real time. Upon awareness of the issue, TrendNet initiated immediate actions to correct and publish updated firmware which resolves the vulnerability.
“We are scrambling to discover how the code was introduced and at this point it seems like a coding oversight,” a company spokesman told the BBC.
This case is part of a series of recent theft allegations against TSA employees.
TSA Agent Clayton Keith Dovel was arrested last week on suspicion of stealing numerous iPads from passenger’s luggage at DFW’s airport.
Apparently, Dovel was lifting the iPads from his position where he screened passenger’s checked luggage by hand.
Dovel was caught because one of the theft victims had downloaded the “Find My iPhone” app onto her iPad. She was able to track her stolen iPad directly to Dovel’s house. Police found at least seven iPads at Dovel’s residence.
TSA placed Dovel on leave until officials can sort out the situation.
I would think installing video surveillance in the area where luggage is checked would be enough to discourage pilfering by TSA employees, who I am sure are usually honest hard working individuals.
Video surveillance is used in the screening area at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the video recently helped catch a TSA agent who stole $5,000 from a passenger’s jacket. Surveillance video showed TSA agent Alexandra Schmid taking the money from a jacket pocket, wrapping the cash in a plastic glove and taking it to a bathroom.
The money hasn’t been recovered. Police are investigating whether Schmid gave it to another person in the bathroom.
The 31-year-old Schmid was arrested on a charge of grand larceny and suspended pending an investigation. Her attorney’s name wasn’t immediately known.
It is best to never check items of value in your luggage and to check for your valuables after they have gone through the passenger screening area. If you must check your computers, there are software programs for Macs and PCs that will track your computer should it be lost or stolen.
This is the type of story you see in a bad Lifetime movie – a suspense/drama thriller that goes beyond the norm of what “normal” people will do. I can’t imagine how this poor woman has lived out such a real nightmare for so many years.
After nearly two decades, Tracy Lundeen can stop hiding. The man who has stalked her since 1994, since the two were middle schoolers in Renton, Seattle, has been sentenced to more than 26-years in prison. Prosecutors are calling this the longest sentence for stalking in memory.
Shawn Moul, 31, received the exceptionally long felony stalking sentence last week after a jury found he “demonstrated an egregious lack of remorse” for his actions. At one point, Moul had reportedly threatened to cut out the heart of a deputy prosecutor unless he turned over Lundeen’s address and phone number.
Moul began stalking classmate Tracy Lundeen in 1994. Lundeen saw him at the school library struggling with his homework and offered to help him. Afterwards, Lundeen said Moul began following her and wrote her more than 100 letters. The letters alternated between threatening her and vowing to kill himself. He also contacted Lundeen’s family members and demanded that she contact him. (more…)
In a search of several Mexican lawmakers’ offices, recording equipment was discovered. This has led legislators to believe they have been spied on for years, a congressman said Wednesday.
Security personnel found microphones and other devices that seemed to have been installed years ago, according to Congressman Armando Rios.
Rios, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), said, “Some of the equipment has newer technology, but other devices are from a long time ago, which leads us to believe they were installed years ago.”
It was discovered that offices of key committees and several lawmakers from different political parties were bugged.
Congress president Guadalupe Acosta, also of the PRD, has filed a complaint with federal prosecutors, who have opened an investigation.
Rios has accused the government of President Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the conservative National Action Party (PAN). Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire denied Rios’ accusations. He said the government has done nothing illegal.
Acosta declined to identify the lawmakers who were being spied on or who he thinks was behind the espionage. (more…)
Who sent me The Rahmfather? I want to know. Please.
If you know the answer, let him or us know.
One morning, John showed up for work and found a mysterious portrait in his office. It was a large framed movie-style poster of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as some Jewish Al Pacino – and the words, “JOHN FRANCIS KASS’S The Rahmfather.” (sic). Then follows the phrase “All the power on Earth can’t change Chicago.”
The portrait displays a strikingly handsome Rahmfather, thoughtful, pensive, his chin propped on his left hand, a hawk at rest. He is in a dark suit, conservative tie, wearing his Chicago flag lapel pin, and his steel-gray hair slightly spiky, just like Pacino’s in “The Godfather: Part III.”
Oh yeah, and the eyes. The eyes follow you wherever you go.
In Kass’ Tribune Article, he wrote that over the years his readers have sent him some amazing treasures but nothing is as cool as The Rahmfather.
When John sent a photo of the portrait to an aide of Rahm, the aide replied, “Oh, my God, He’s really going to want this.”
Kass replied, “Yeah, I know he’s going to want it. He’s going to want it bad. But tell him he can’t have it. He can send his buddy Jimmy DeLeo over with a box of cannoli and I’d say no. Rahm could put my head in a vise and still I wouldn’t give it to him.”
John asked the Tribune’s editorial cartoonist, Scott Stantis, to evaluate the painting. “This is really good work. This was done by a pro,” said Stantis.
But who painted it? Who sent it? John only knew that a few weeks ago, it was dropped off by a nondescript person at the Tribune Tower.
The story gets even more weird - the painting was addressed to: “JKFC John Kass Fan Club, 211 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 4250.”
There is no fan club at this address. Suite 4250 also does not exist. There are only 41 floors in the building.
Someone asked, “Maybe it was a joke?” An editor reminded John of what a wise columnist often says: In Chicago, when it comes to City Hall or the Outfit, there are no such things as coincidences.
John asked the editor, “Should I sweep it for bugs? Could this be a Trojan Rahm? The editor replied, “It’s up to you, but I would.”
That’s all Kass had to hear. Having the Rahmfather hanging on the wall behind him, peering over his shoulder as he is talking on the phone, he couldn’t take the chance.
So he drove the painting over to the U-Spy Store, 2406 W. Fullerton, to have it examined by counterintelligence experts. (more…)
A Wisconsin man charged with domestic abuse told cops that a “ghost” was responsible for injuries suffered by his wife, according to police.
Michael West’s ridiculous story did not prevent police from arresting him for strangulation, battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
Police responded to a report of a domestic dispute on Jan. 15, at the West residence in Fond du Lac, Wis. Police found West’s wife crying and bleeding from the nose. Drops of blood stained areas of the kitchen and her Packers’ jersey.
According to a criminal complaint, West and his spouse got into an argument on January 15th that turned violent. The victim told cops that West twice strangled her, and that he punched her in the face when she tried to dial 911. The woman told police her husband repeatedly punched her in the face and attempted to strangle her “to the point that [her] vision went black and [she] felt like she was going to pass out.”
Police said West appeared intoxicated and was yelling and swearing at the two officers who were questioning him. The man claimed his wife had fallen several times, injuring her face and neck.
When asked specifically about the marks on the woman’s neck, West said, in slurred speech, “A ghost did it.”
West resisted arrest, but was eventually handcuffed and taken into custody. His wife told police the fight began over the impending foreclosure on their home.