If you’re someone who quickly checks their personal email or browses social media on their work laptop, then you’re not alone. According to a 2020 survey by antivirus vendor Malwarebytes, 53% of respondents reported sending or receiving personal email, 38% shopped online, 25% accessed their social media and 22% downloaded or installed non-company software on their work computers.

Yes, it’s convenient, and seems harmless, but here’s why you should not do this. 

Personal browsing increases the chances of successful phishing attacks

Whilst phishing attempts often target company email addresses, they’re also common on personal emails too. If you fall victim to a phishing attack through your personal email which you’re checking on your work computer, you could introduce malware into the corporate network.

Unapproved websites can introduce malware

The sites people use for personal use aren’t always secure and could introduce viruses or tracking software into your company’s network. In an extreme example of this, an ex-CIA employee allowed his son to use his work laptop who then visited several “high-risk” porn sites, placing cookies on the computer.

Your personal info could be accessed by hackers

Not using your work laptop for personal use isn’t just about protecting your employer, it’s also about protecting you. Companies are often targets of ransomware or other malicious attacks. If you store personal information (such as financial or health data) on your work laptop, it could be accessed by hackers in the event of an attack.

All activity on your laptop can be accessed by your employer

It’s rare that companies actively surveil their employees, but most have the ability to do so. If you’re logging into personal banking or messaging people on dating sites, this information could later be used by employers if, for example, they are trying to build a case to fire you. On even rarer occasions, you might find that there are some rogue employees who are able to access your data and sell it for a profit. 

So, as convenient and innocent as it might seem, using your work laptop for personal use can cause problems for both you and your employer. It’s safer – and healthier – to create a boundary between work and home.