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How To Protect Your Privacy at Work
Posted January 23, 2017
How To Protect Your Privacy at Work

By Jessica Barker. Updated January 23, 2017 9:08AM



Work has gradually crept into our personal time, and personal life has crept into our work, spurred on by technology. In many jobs, there is an expectation that people work long hours and respond to emails outside of the traditional office hours. The blurring of this line has made the issue of privacy and security at work even more complex.

Organizations have had to step up their efforts to combat malicious attacks, not only from external hackers, but insiders who can misuse or steal information.

As more information is created, shared and stored than ever before, the need to protect it from internal and external threats, has become even more vital. So, what can you do to better protect your privacy and security at work?

Separate Work and Personal Devices

It is prudent to avoid using corporate devices and systems -- like your work laptop, phone or email account -- for anything personal. In most cases, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy at work. Employers usually tolerate a certain amount of personal use, especially if it is carried out in your own time, does not affect your work and is not inappropriate. However, when personal data is kept on a work device, the ownership of that data is blurred. Should you lose your job, for example, the devices you have been using could be removed without giving you time to retrieve any of your data.

Find Out if Your Company Is Monitoring You

It is also worth bearing in mind that anything you do on a work device, such as accessing a personal email account, may be seen and backed up. Employers monitor IT to prevent disclosure of confidential information and criminal activity, and to keep an eye on inefficiency. Technology which facilitates monitoring, such as software that can capture a screenshot of everything employees do, is advancing all the time.

There is no such thing as 100% security online, just as there isn't in the 'real world.'

Monitoring should be appropriate and outlined in a policy document, so read your organization's policies and if you can't see anything about monitoring, ask.

Think About Your Social Media Presence

The line is often blurred between our professional and personal identities when it comes to social media. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it is worth being conscious of it so you think twice before you say something online which could get you, or your employer, in trouble.

Facebook might not be the best place to let off steam after a colleague has irritated you in a meeting, especially if you are 'friends' with other colleagues or your boss. Even if you have locked your Facebook or Twitter account so that only connections can see what you share, remember that anything you say online can be taken as a screenshot and shared further than you might intend.

Also, bear in mind that cyber criminals use social media to gather information on targets. This means that information you share on LinkedIn, for example, could be used to craft a convincing spear-phishing email to attack your employer via you.

Strengthen Your Passwords

Use strong, complicated and unique passwords, so they cannot be easily cracked. Passphrases, which are sentences that contain spaces between the words, are even more secure. Try using a line from your favorite song for each account, and enhance the complexity by mixing in special characters, upper and lower case letters, and numbers. Try not to use the 0bv!0us 0n3s!

Do not reuse passwords, because if a criminal works it out they will have access to all of your accounts. You may want to consider a password manager, such as LastPass, Dashlane and Keeper. Password managers store your login details for the websites that you use in an encrypted database, so you just need to remember one master password. Some people argue this is risky because it may create a single point of failure -- if the master password is breached, all of your passwords are. But if you make your master password strong and complicated, password managers still offer much greater security than using a simple password across many accounts. There is no such thing as 100% security online, just as there isn't in the 'real world': security is about doing what is feasible to mitigate risks.

Once you have complicated and unique passwords, do not worry about changing them unless you suspect, or know, that an account has been compromised. If your employer insists on regular password changes, you may want to find out why they are not following the latest UK government guidelines, which state that regular password changes put too much burden on users and can lead to weaker passwords.

Double Up Your Security

Set up two-factor authentication (2FA), which acts as a double layer of protection for your accounts so your security does not rely solely on passwords. There are simple, step-by-step guides on setting up 2FA at

Be wary of links and attachments. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of an email or message, use an alternative method to contact the sender, such as calling them on a number you know is correct.

There is no one quick fix for security, but investing just a little bit of time and effort by following these steps could save you a lot of stress -- and money.

© 2017 Guardian Web syndicated under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

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