Just started working at a large size company that has their own IT department, supporting all of the workplace technology needs.

I was made aware there are no private rights on employee computers - as it is their property. I came from a very small company, I knew that if they need to go through my work computer it was obviously their right but it was not advertised like this.

So with all these rights stated, what type of audits does a typical large IT department really run on employee computers? What do they include? (i.e, pushing latest virus scan, logging key strokes, website activity, file system, etc)?

(This is in the US)

  • 3
    What country are you in? Oct 17, 2013 at 6:00

3 Answers 3


The typical IT department will enforce a corporate version of some anti-virus client on the PC and schedule regular updates. It may not grant you administrative privileges if you don't need them. It will most likely have some proxy or firewall rules that block internet access to sites deemed counterproductive while working, for example Youtube or Facebook.

Those measures are automated. It will be checked if they work, but the results will probably not be checked in so far that it would take enormous manpower to look at all the sites that employees wanted to access and that were blocked.

Then, there are many non-typical IT departments that do whatever they see fit. Legal or not. The best way to handle this is to treat your work computer like a publicly accessible terminal. Only store data that you don't mind people to see.

  • 2
    You should assume that internet access is logged. They probably won't routinely check individual users (that's way too much data), but if there's a reason to look more closely at your activity, they will. I know my employer logs this, tracking origin IP and logged-in user. Oct 20, 2013 at 22:49

Programmer and ex tech support talking here.

In order to see what you are typing or what's on your screen, special software is needed - such a keylogger to see your key strokes, for example. Anything else can be checked just with IT equipment and your operating system's out of the box features.

IT can see and inspect all the data that goes in and out of your machine through the network. It may be encrypted, but not all forms of encryption are hard to break, and unless you are somewhat tech savvy, they will always at least know which addresses (URL's and IP addresses) your machine has been accessing.

Your OS can also be accessed remotely, so it's possible to know what has been installed, by whom, etc. A network admin has access to your file system, so they can see cookies, documents etc. If you have a USB drive connected, they can see what's in there too.

You don't have to be paranoid about these things. As mhoran said, a company can see a lot, but it doesn't mean everything will be audited. We techies usually only peep when ordered to by management, and then again that usually only happens when there's something suspect going on.

I used to spy a lot under management's orders when I worked in a college, because they didn't want the students making misuse of the computers in the labs (i.e.: playing games during classes). I always saw the machines being used for a lot of personal things. My job usually led to some pretty awkward conversations, like this:

- [Extremely angry, about to burst a vein on the forehead] Renan, why did you delete my
documents folder?
- Which machine was that this time?
- Lab21! You [expletive]!
- [checking logs] Ah, I deleted that to save you from being arrested by the police.
I personally know the girl and she is underage. She'll be 18 next month, though,
so you can take new pictures after her birthday.
- ... [lowers head, goes away mute and never saves anything in the labs
computers again].

What they actively check because of time and people constraints is different from what they collect but don't review, and is also different from what they can collect.

They own the equipment, they own the data on the equipment, and they own the resources you used (network, power...). Regardless of the size of the IT department, or even if there is an IT department, they can scan or confiscate the computer any time they want.

Assume that they can do anything. But will they resort to key loggers? They might if they suspect hat you are doing something illegal.

Virus scan requirements, the use of screen lock timers, and the like are enforced to protect their data. Blocking of websites is done to avoid the use of their machines on potentially illegal or dangerous sites, or sites that are time wasters. Restricting software installation privileges is done to protect their system from viruses or the installation of unapproved or cracked software.


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