Computer Surveillance - What Does it Offer?
- January 24, 2007
- by PInow Staff
Computer monitoring software can uncover exactly what computer users are doing online. Anyone interested in installing this type of software, though, needs to select the program carefully.
According to a 2001 American Management Association survey, 77.7% of major U.S. companies used computer surveillance to check employee e-mail, Internet use, phone calls, computer use, and files. Some companies even used computer surveillance to videotape workers. The reason is not hard to see: According to IDC Research, 30 to 40% of Internet use during work hours is for personal use. Employers are concerned that they are losing worker productivity, thanks to employees who use work hours to surf the Internet and to send personal emails. Employers are also concerned that workers who use company computers to commit fraud crimes or use the system to send sexually explicit materials may embroil the company in a lawsuit.
It's not just employers who are concerned, either. Parents and spouses are worried as well. According to a US Congressional Study submitted on June 8, 2000, more than 20% of children have been solicited for sex online. According to the 1999 Greenfield and Rivet Internet Use and Abuse Survey 1999, 57% of Internet users use their Internet connection to flirt. The high proliferation of online dating sites some catering specifically to married people looking for discreet affairs also gives many couples pause. Computer monitoring allows anyone who is worried about an unfaithful partner, an ineffective employee, or a child at risk to monitor computer use for signs of trouble.
What is computer surveillance?
Computer surveillance usually takes place through computer monitoring software. This software is easy to install, widely available both through online downloads and through software packages, and generally costs under $100. Some companies even offer computer surveillance services with monthly or weekly updates of information. Once software or services are installed on a system, the program is invisible to most users and usually works quietly to record every keystroke made on the computer system.
The person who has installed the software and is aware of its presence can then use their software password to log onto the program and get information about where other users of the computer have been online. The program will provide passwords, websites visited, and other information, so it can give a pretty clear picture of what a person has been doing online and on the computer. The person who has installed the computer surveillance software can even access other users e-mail accounts and password protected online accounts, thanks to the fact that the computer software records all keystrokes -- including passwords. If other users of the computer system have written e-mails on the computer, these can be read by the person who has installed computer surveillance software.
At the same time, no one but the person who has installed the software is aware of the program is there -- it is a completely hidden program that does not change the performance of the computer and does not provide an icon for other users to be aware of the software. In some cases, the surveillance is self-protected, so that even if the computer is cleaned and reinstalled, the software remains, hidden on the system.
Some surveillance software is installed without any computer users awareness or agreement. These pieces of software -- called spyware -- are considered malevolent software and can now be detected by antivirus and antispam or anti-spyware programs. Spyware is often installed by companies who wish to do marketing research on online users. It can also be installed by hackers or online criminals.
Who can use computer surveillance?
Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, system administrators are allowed to monitor computer activity, including users messages, in the normal course of work. Under the law, administrators are not required to alert users of the surveillance, although legal experts do advise employers to tell employees when and how monitoring will take place.
Companies and individuals interested in computer surveillance do need to find legal and workable solutions that give them the answers they need. Not all online surveillance systems are as safe, or as discreet, as advertisements suggest. That's why many companies and even individuals are turning to investigators with e-surveillance experience for help. Qualified investigative professionals can set up legal surveillance systems, run security audits, and can provide consultations that ensure real security both in the workplace and in the home. Finding a local private investigator is now easier than ever with the PInow.com Worldwide Directory of Private Investigators, and the PInow.com Worldwide Directory of Private Investigators even offers free surveillance resources that can help anyone with questions get started.
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