At least 70% of employees admit to doing activities that are not work-related on their company computer. Although some employers may ignore your browsing habits, it is important to reconsider your activities on your work PC or laptop, particularly in light of cybersecurity concerns.

You should always be mindful of your actions on these devices, says Anna Collard, senior vice-president: content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.

To ensure the security of your work environment and protect sensitive information, she outlines five activities you should refrain from doing on your company computer:

  • Store personal files – Experts are unanimous that storing your own files on a company computer is the worst thing you can do. For one thing, if your laptop gets infected, your IT department may have to wipe all your files. For another, your personal files might be visible to everyone in the company. “Avoid storing personal files and photos on your computer,” says Collard. “Do not use company storage data for your personal stuff.”
  • Save passwords – Another big no-no is using your browser to save and auto-fill your passwords. “Rather make use of a password manager if your organisation has one,” she recommends. If you are concerned about the safety of a password manager, you could ‘salt’ your passwords stored in there. This means leaving out or adding characters and manually inserting them. “That way, you protect yourself should someone hack the password manager,” she says. “If that’s not allowed, rather write your passwords down than store them on your browser or some other file on your company computer. The likelihood of cyber-criminals stealing my little black book is virtually zero, whereas the first place hackers would look for passwords is on my browser settings.” If someone else signs into your accounts using your passwords, this could seriously put your company’s data at risk.
  • Stream films from dodgy websites – Because the work-life boundary is often blurry, many employees feel they may watch movies on company devices. “However, there are many dangers to watching films from illegal sites,” notes Collard. “Torrent sites, which are peer-to-peer networks where people share movies, can introduce malicious software onto your work computer. Collard suggests that if you are going to watch movies, it is safer to use sites like Netflix or Showmax. “That way, you won’t be introducing malware to your computer or bringing in vulnerabilities which malicious actors can exploit.”
  • Perform sensitive tasks on public WiFi – The first question many people ask when they work from a coffee shop or airport lounge is: “What is the WiFi password?” But connecting to a free WiFi network can be dangerous, Collard warns, especially if you are doing something which is sensitive such as online banking. “WiFi snooping and sniffing is exactly what it sounds like. Cybercriminals can buy special software kits and even devices to help assist them with eavesdropping on WiFi signals or pretending to be a hotspot that you connect to.” When you are using a public WiFi network, it is a good idea to be cautious about accessing sensitive information. “If you are thinking of paying bills or making purchases, it might be better to hold off until you are on a more secure network,” says Collard. Other security measures include creating a mobile hotspot with your phone and using a virtual private network (VPN). It is also a good idea to lock your laptop on a flight when you get up from your seat.
  • Avoid updates – Nobody likes their computer slowing down to a crawl or having to switch it off and on again to accommodate security updates. But there is a real danger if you do not, says Collard. “Whether you are using a PC or a MacBook, there will always be software updates that are being released. Do not ignore them because they help to patch up the vulnerabilities that hackers are looking to exploit,” she says. “There’s a reason updates are there, so you need to install them without delay.”

A last word on best practices is to find out what your company policy is. “Some companies do not mind you checking social media, paying bills or shopping online on your work computer, as long as it is within reasonable limits and on a secure network,” says Collard. “But remember that the device is an asset that does not belong to you, so don’t do anything on it that you would not want your boss to know about.”