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Ask Slashdot: Using Company Laptop For Personal Use 671

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home dept.
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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Ask Slashdot: Using Company Laptop For Personal Use

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  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:12PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:42PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Collapsing Empire (1268240) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:50PM (#39240375) Journal

        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 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Guspaz (556486) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:26PM (#39240635)

          You can lock down a laptop sufficiently so that even though you've lost physical control of the machine, nothing short of replacing the hard disk is going to compromise the system. If your employees are doing that just to circumvent IT policy, maybe THEY should be treated as the hostile one, not the laptop.

          • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

            by HornWumpus (783565) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:45PM (#39241259)

            If someone has gone to the lengths of locking down the laptop they must have concerns. Important IP and known active industrial espionage would be the kind of head space I'm describing.

            Given that mode of thinking, I would assume you would check the image of returning employees laptop hard drive for malicious changes installed by professionals.

            Even if you trust your employee completely, the laptop has been in the hands of customs and other unknown people while in the world. It can't be assumed safe until re-imaged. Finding any attackers code would be a bonus of the 'standard' harddrive swap by IT on return.

            And no it wouldn't be that bad. Employee has only had laptop for a few days. Tech pulls old drive, installs standard image replacement, checks for nonstandard flash, updates crypto, puts back on shelf. Tech installs old drive in USB enclosure, enters crypto key, scans then copies data folders to employees user folder, then runs paranoia process on OS and drive. If nothing found drive re-imaged and put back on shelf.

            To the employee it looks like he turned in his machine and his data showed up in his folder 30 minutes later. To the tech it looks like he has a job doing paranoid shit, until one day he finds the next Stuxnet.

            I assume, more or less this, is routine at many corporate R&D centers. In that world they do have to treat employees as, at least, potentially hostile.

          • You've never taken any computers into China have you?

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:43PM (#39240749)

          I'd hope that the people I issue laptops to are responsible and trustworthy. Personally I don't care if they use the laptop for personal web browsing or e-book, as long as they do it on their own personal time. Most appropriate use agreements say the same thing. I do draw the line at installing programs on the laptop.

          However I always strongly suggest people to have their own laptops/computers for personal use. Information stored in the form of cookies, browser history, etc. can be embarrassing or worse. There was a local county worker who was dismissed for inappropriate material being found on his work laptop while it was being serviced by the IT contractor. No one thinks about the laptop failing and having your personal data locked up for the IT repair guy to find. I find it amusing that they warn of key logging (which isn't as wide spread) but aren't as cautious about being caught in a compromising position.

          Another (and more appropriate reason for the people I work with) reason being that the company I work for (and most others) consider the use of company equipment for personal financial gain as an offense worthy of dismissal and any goods produced on company equipment as their property. Lawyers are more expensive than a laptop - a.k.a an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

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

          Placing company laptops in a DMZ doesn't always make for a productive work environment nor is your monitoring idea that effective. A compromised laptop can still "behave" in a company private LAN and once connected to a public hotspot send its payload to whomever. There is a reason we like locking down company equipment. Locking down company equipment also has a "cover your ass" attribute that network monitoring alone can't offer. Also depending on the industry there are regulations that may dictate such measures to be taken.

          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.

          The employee should stick to his/her paid job assignment and let IT do the job for which they are paid. I have company equipment that have two or more operating systems on them, but they were all approved by IT first and my job directly depends on it. I believe altering the contents of a company laptop in such a drastic manner without the consent of IT may be a severe violation of the use agreement.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by PNutts (199112) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:48PM (#39241285)
          Holy jebus. You should be embarrased to post that in what used to be technical forum. A laptop in possession of a trustworthy employee governed by policy is not losing physical control. It's not your resource to do what you please and you don't manage it. You also didn't build and tweak it so don't assume the things that work on yours will work at it. The company will have policies on what's appropriate ranging from "no personal use" to "occasional use" to "go forth and surf". The OP didn't mention what the policies and so this entire thread will be a flame war. The rest of what you say is so obvious as to be insulting. Except the last paragraph which is dangerously naive. Any decent IT shop will evaulate the risks before rolling out a patch just because it's Tuesday. It might not be necessary at all.

          Just because the OP has no self-control to 'not browse the internet' that doesn't mean his company has to assume the cost and risk of him doing so.
          • "A laptop in possession of a trustworthy employee governed by policy is not losing physical control."

            You, me, the US Army, and Bradley Manning might kick that around in a discussion. We might come to some interesting conclusions.

        • That is retarded. Why?

          1. The laptops carry sensitive data. Treating them as hostile is a good start, but it in no way validates leaving the user to install his own malware/crapware, etc.

          2. IT departments are pretty good about patching Windows/MS Office etc. It's the little 3rd party applications and homegrown software that is being left in the dust. This was carried on /. a few weeks back.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Tom (822) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @04:16PM (#39241867) Homepage Journal

          You can lock down a notebook well enough that it requires malicious intent and considerable technical skill to tamper with it.

          The fact that there is no 100% security doesn't mean that there isn't 99% security.

          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.

          Maybe. But that "more" of security could be in the wrong place, while the security that actually matters for the threat scenarios that the risk assessment has defined has been reduced.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

          by the_B0fh (208483) on Monday March 05, 2012 @02:14AM (#39245021) Homepage

          It really doesn't fucking matter - *IT IS NOT YOUR LAPTOP*

      • My solution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:05PM (#39240463) Journal
        I bring a Knoppix live CD, a ruggedized 500GB USB drive (Adata SH93 [adata.com.tw], which is powered from a single USB port), and headphones. In total, this adds less than half a kilo to the mass I have to carry, and almost nothing to the bulk. The laptop hard disk is untouched, as it's not even mounted when Knoppix boots. I'm only using the laptop for personal purposes in hotels to either (i) surf the web, (ii) access non-work email accounts, or (iii) watch movies. I generally copy a selection of movies from the home media server to the USB drive before traveling - hotels often charge outrageous amounts for their limited selection of premium channels, and the company won't cover such charges. If I download anything, it also goes to the USB drive.
        • Re:My solution (Score:4, Informative)

          by hokeyru (749540) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @03:07PM (#39241425)

          Even better, if the laptop supports it, buy a second hard drive tray and hard drive, and swap between them for business and personal use.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Deorus (811828) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:18PM (#39241061)

        As a software engineer, whenever I have to work with IT people like you, I happily leave the company's laptop unused and locked in a drawer beneath my desk and use my MacBook Pro instead. All the information needed to access corporate services is in my possession anyway, so you're none the wiser. If you block Internet access at work, I will happily tether to my iPhone or bring my iPad.

        To put it simple: in this day and age you can't afford to think you have that kind of control. If there's sensitive information, the only way to be on the safe side is to ensure that it never leaves the company, which is something that you can still do.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Tom (822) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @04:13PM (#39241839) Homepage Journal

          All the information needed to access corporate services is in my possession anyway, so you're none the wiser. If you block Internet access at work, I will happily tether to my iPhone or bring my iPad.

          Let me get this straight: You would connect to the corporate network using a private, unapproved machine? And you would then connect that machine directly to the Internet?

          In several environments in which I've worked, as the IT Security/Compliance Officer I would recommend you for immediate termination.

          Just because you think that you are entitled to your own rules doesn't make it so. If you don't like my rules, you are welcome to come into my office and discuss them with me. You better have good reasons, because I do.
          You are not free to just break the rules and open up the corporate network to the world at large, bypassing all the security layers that are there for a reason.

    • by blackicye (760472) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:48PM (#39240349)

      Buy yourself another laptop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jowifi (1320309)
      The solution I came up with was to buy a spare hard drive and caddy for the machine. When I wanted to do my own thing, I swapped out the drives. No risk of contaminating either system with data from the other, and it's a lot easier to carry around than an extra laptop or even a tablet. It also tends to be faster that a cd or usb drive.
      • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:28PM (#39241141)

        The solution I came up with was to buy a spare hard drive and caddy for the machine. When I wanted to do my own thing, I swapped out the drives.

        If a) you're running windows on your second drive and b) the employer has deployed tracking software like Computrace then Computrace will self-heal onto your second drive and the swap will be detected. No worries if you're running Linux on the swapped drive.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:19PM (#39240585) Journal

      Another solution is to simply ask the employer, if some personal use of the laptop is OK, and if so, to what extent. Maybe you'll get the answer that your intended usage is fine, and then you'll not have to worry at all about how to hide it.

      Indeed, if I were the employer, if someone asked I'd probably be fine with it, but if someone were playing tricks to hide and I'd find out, I'd seriously consider firing him.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rary (566291) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @03:41PM (#39241625)

        This is exactly right. It's amazing how many people immediately look for ways to go behind the employer's back. Why not start by just asking them? If the employer is expecting you to travel for extended periods of time, then there is an obvious need for getting a reasonable amount of personal use out of the laptop, as traveling with two laptops (one for work, one for pleasure) is just silly. Your employer is human, and likely a reasonable one at that (and if not, you should be looking to replace her or him). So, just explain your needs and come to an agreement.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Glonoinha (587375) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:56PM (#39240875) Journal

      Smartest thing I've read all day. It is literally a perfect match to the original question, which is probably the dumbest thing I've read all day (drive image your work laptop, smoke it and install your own warez, and restore the drive image before giving it back to them.)

      OP - here's the one piece where your plan fails : the active directory connection establishing your machine as a trusted member of the domain, and your user as the domain with the same name ... disconnects if it hasn't been refreshed in a while. I don't know how long it takes, but it happens. And it is a particularly uncomfortable discussion with corporate IT explaining why, given that your machine looks exactly like it did when they gave it to you, and you have been using it for a few months. The question is going to come up 'What did you do to it?' and you are going to answer just like they expect you to 'Nothing.' ... and it goes downhill from there.

      Technical answer for you is same as Anrego : USB Thumbdrive install of Linux : Pen Drive Linux [pendrivelinux.com] has a zillion distros you can pick from, and they give you step by step instructions on making it work.

      If technical answer #1 doesn't work for you, here's technical answer #2 for you : remove the work hard drive, install a new hard drive, install your own OS on that and swap out drives for work / pleasure. Downside is limited to the danger of physically borking the work drive while removing it or storing it while it is out of the machine. Explaining how you managed to mangle the SATA connector on a work laptop is a very difficult discussion.

      Personal preference answer is also same as Anrego : don't do anything on your work laptop that you wouldn't do with representatives from corporate HR, IT, your boss and his boss standing over your shoulder. Buy a cheap used netbook for $150 on Craigslist and take it with you to do your warez/internet surfing/pr0n viewing.

    • You might first check with the company policy on use of company-owned equipment. It may be acceptable for you to watch a netfilix movie, read an ebook, do some shopping or check personal email via a website like gmail. The company policies may actually be reasonable. On the other hand, if the work you are doing requires the highest level of security , then no you shouldn't use the computer for anything else. Check first. If the answer is no, then respect it or get another job.

      If you are not allowed to use

  • Don't go there... (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) * on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:13PM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:18PM (#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.

  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Isarian (929683)

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rew (6140)

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

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alan Shutko (5101) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:23PM (#39240059) Homepage

        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.

        • by tepples (727027)
          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?
      • by TheSHAD0W (258774)

        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.

      • Try construction work for one year, then tell me how horrible it is to lug around 2 laptops.........
  • Read the policy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jethro (14165) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:18PM (#39239999) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.
  • 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
  • Are you serious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedata.[ ].eg ['net' in gap]> on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:22PM (#39240051) Journal

    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.

    • by tixxit (1107127)
      Pretty sure he's talking about his use of the laptop off company hours. That is, he gets home from a long day of work and wants to browse the web. He's on a plane and wants to play a game. That kind of stuff.
  • use a live usb stick (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:23PM (#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.

    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      Yep, pretty reasonable, assuming the company isn't completely paranoid. Particularly when it comes to travel, I have no qualms using the work computer after hours for my own entertainment. The computer may belong to the company, but after hours my life belongs to me, and if they're going to sent me away from the comforts of home they'd be pretty unreasonable to expect me to travel with two computers just to avoid doing a little web browsing or game playing on theirs.
  • Slow Nerd Day? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trip6 (1184883) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:23PM (#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?

  • 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

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:25PM (#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.

    Best,

  • 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.
    • by Maow (620678)

      Carry a live-VD

      I've got a live-VD that I'm just itching to share if anyone's interested.

      Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?

  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:26PM (#39240103) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Zemran (3101) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:29PM (#39240139) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Short Answer: Don't (Score:4, Informative)

    by monk (1958) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#39240199) Homepage

    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 [livecdlist.com] you can boot off of USB, one that allows you to store stuff back to the USB stick. Damn Small Linux [damnsmalllinux.org] 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.

  • by ChrisKnight (16039) <merlin@@@ghostwheel...com> on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:40PM (#39240269) Homepage

    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.

  • by buckeyeguy (525140) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:47PM (#39240343) Homepage Journal
    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

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:50PM (#39240369) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by slk (2510) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @12:56PM (#39240405)

    This is what tablets and smartphones are for. Bring your own tablet and/or smartphone, keep the personal surfing personal. Nobody will ask, nobody will care... your iPad is for watching movies on the plane, reading eBooks, random surfing, etc.

    Also, having written a few AUPs myself... the exact restrictions tend to be pretty well documented, and driven by security and compliance requirements that your employer would be in trouble for violating. Read the AUP in full and make sure you understand it, ask questions if needed. Those of us who have to help maintain compliance / security would much rather get a few "silly questions" than have to clean up a mess. When in doubt, use a personal device. There's absolutely no excuse not to have one.

    And to the employer... think about VDI+BYOD. Move the security back into the server room, let employees use "whatever". Keeping the personal surfing out is a losing battle, no matter what your compliance requirements are.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @01:43PM (#39240757)

    1, read their acceptable use policy.

    2, follow it.

  • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:05PM (#39240937)
    In my experience, having a company laptop issued to you is much like having a company car issued to you. Take care of it, don't do anything you're not supposed to with it, and remember it's issued to you to make your job easier, so make sure it does. I can't think of a single thing that you should be doing on a company laptop that you'd need to encrypt or hide from your employer (remember, THEY own the hardware), so a lot of your question is moot.

    Stuff like reading an e-book, browsing the web, or customizing it to your specification is probably fine, assuming it doesn't interfere with your actual work. Well, unless your company has specifically told you NOT to do these things, in which case you really should bring a second, personal, laptop (or kindle, or ipad, as others have said) with you. Doing anything you'd be embarrassed to have your boss find out about is simply not a good idea, though. Think of it like it's your work desktop, only portable, and adjust your usage accordingly.

    I don't see why this question needs a more complicated answer than this. If you still have questions, ask your boss. None of us on Slashdot are policymakers for your company, and asking us to decide for them is silly.
  • Don't be so paranoid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scamper_22 (1073470) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:12PM (#39241001)

    I'm sure your laptop has monitoring software, but the question is... who is actually looking at the monitoring and do they care?

    I have a laptop issued for work. At work I used my desktop, but when I need to remotely work, I used my work laptop.

    If you're honest with yourself, chances are you won't get in trouble. Unless you work for a hyper security company. Are you putting in an honest days work at the office? Beyond that, they're giving you a laptop . Just like if they gave you a company car. Some amount of personal use is generally tolerated.

    When I'm at home, I use my laptop quite liberally. Some small games, web browsing... are all good.

    I don't do anything 'illegal' on it though.

    I think you need to relax a little bit. By all means find out what monitoring policies your company has... but if its like 99% of companies, all the data goes into a giant pit no one looks at... until you give them a reason to look at it.

  • Wow, lots of hate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aztektum (170569) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @02:19PM (#39241065)

    Yeah the person is going over board with talk of wiping his laptop and all that noise.

    But what is with all the vitriol? He's a "cheap bastard". He has horrid working habits. His life is hollow and he should read a book? How any of that was deduced from one post on /. is beyond me.

    My advice, as someone who has written AUP for companies: If your company policy is that ridiculous, you should question working there. Odds are it is not. My guess is if you get your work done they really won't give a rats arse. The laptop is their property, a worker is not. If they cannot accept you checking YouTube or /. while off the clock (including a quick break here and there), they're crazy.

    But, should you seriously just want to avoid it: Make a bootable Linux USB drive and encrypt /home

  • by Hasai (131313) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @03:52PM (#39241691)
    ....Try reading the corporate SOP.
    Step Two: When in doubt, ask.
    Step Three: If the SOP isn't something you can abide by, find another job. Dishonesty WILL ruin your career.
  • by alispguru (72689) <bane AT gst DOT com> on Sunday March 04, 2012 @04:50PM (#39242091) Journal

    If your IT regime has any sort of remote update system, your backup image will gradually get outdated as IT pushes patches onto the standard one. It will be seriously out-of-date if you ever restore it before returning the machine.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @05:20PM (#39242269) Journal

    I have re-imaged my laptop issued by the company, granted myself admin rights and stripped off some of the cruft with which company laptops come equipped and installed non-standard software, but I work in IT, and I have access to all the tools and images and am in a better policy position than it sounds like you are. Were I not deep in IT and secure in my position, I would not try it. You are issued a laptop to do a particular job, and that's what it's for. If you just can't make yourself not surf naughty teens websites, get yourself a tablet of your very own and use that.

    One possible geeky solution would be to create a virtual instance on your laptop and use that to watch naughty nurses. But even that might not be safe depending on whether there's traffic analysis software on the laptop or just hooks into the browser.

    What it comes down to is this: There's a recession on, buddy. Be happy you're employed. Don't screw around with company property.

  • by Sounder40 (243087) * on Sunday March 04, 2012 @05:41PM (#39242379)

    They're not (usually) going to sniff your internet traffic... They'll more likely look at browser history and file contents, and usually in the "normal" places for the usual file extensions. Running an alternate operating system renders the issue moot.

    1) Download and install VMware Player
    2) Download and install the Linux distro of your choice, with a small disk so it doesn't waste too much space.
    3) Enjoy all the surfing you want.

    Yeah, you said it was probably locked down, I know. But maybe this is something you can ask about? This is what I do, but I usually carry my own personal laptop.

    Alternative 1:
    1) Download your favorite distro's "live" CD
    2) Boot it up and have a good time.

    You should be able to do that at least, right? You can save files/configurations to a stick.

    Alternative 2:
    1) Download your favorite distro
    2) Write it to a stick with LiLi USB Creator (Windows) or one if the million such apps on Linux, such as usb_creator.
    3) Boot that up and rock on.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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