Let’s keep it straight: employers do tend to keep an eye on the browsing history of their employees. But you have got ways to deal with this.
In this article, I will explain how to hide your browsing history from your employer like a pro.
Although there are various ways to hide your browsing history from your employer (I will detail each of those ways in this article), the easiest way is to use a VPN like NordVPN and incognito window. While a VPN will keep your online identity hidden, an incognito window will immediately delete all the cookies and browsing history files once closed.
Why Do Employers Monitor Their Employees’ Online Activity?
Whether you like it or not, it can be necessary for employers to track the online activity of their workers. According to a survey, about 80% of major companies monitor the use of phones, the internet, and email by their employees.
Compliance and Security Regulations
The main reason employers monitor the online activity of employees is to enforce workplace discipline and compliance, ensuring that employees use the office devices and network only for work-related purposes and not for their personal works or leisure activities.
More and more companies are also shifting to remote hiring, which means they can’t supervise the employees on their premises.
To maintain the workflow and daily operation of remote workers, it becomes a must to track their online activity during work hours.
Lack of Trust
You might not have seen this coming, but many companies keep an eye on the browsing history of their employees due to a lack of trust.
Various companies track the productivity of their employees by monitoring their internet usage and active and idle times.
So from the employer’s perspective, it seems that employee monitoring is not just a beneficial option but a necessary measure for the welfare of the company.
However, some rules govern how employers can monitor their employees.
What Are the Rules For Employee Monitoring?
Different companies may have different rules, terms, and conditions to monitor employees. Based on where the company is located, the country or state laws can also affect this framework. But in general, there are three common rules that most organizations follow:
- Only the office network and devices are monitored. Employers cannot track your personal device or network, like browsing on your phone’s cellular network.
- Employees are monitored only during office hours.
- All terms and conditions must be fully disclosed to the employees, and their consent must be taken.
How Do Employers Track Their Workers’ Online Activity?
Employee monitoring works a bit differently for an office setting and remote work setting, so let’s look at both cases.
Monitoring Employees in an Office Setting/On-Site
At your workplace, employers mainly monitor the activity on office devices and networks.
Tracking Through the HR Team or IT Team
Employers might get an HR or IT team to do the dirty work for them. In other words, employers might ask HR managers or members of the IT team to go through your browsing history after you have clocked off for the day.
They might even check your downloads to see if you have any unauthorized apps or software installed on your device.
Tracking Through the Device
Most companies usually install some tracking software on office devices, which keeps track of all online activity on the particular device.
Going incognito won’t work because that just hides your history from the browser and not the entire device, so the software can still track it.
Tracking Through the Network
Companies also install a layer of tracking programs directly on their entire network. That way, any device that connects to the company’s network can be monitored.
In such cases, even if you’re browsing from your personal phone, as long as it’s connected to the company’s network, your employer can see the browsing history.
Basically, they can see every traffic that goes in and out of their network.
This usually happens with private office networks, which can only be accessed by the office staff.
Tracking Through Your Computer’s Hard Drive
Employers might get the IT team to remove the hard drive from your computer and make a copy of it before you begin working.
With the copy, they will be able to detect any suspicious activity after you have clocked off by just checking your computer’s hard disk against the copy that they created for any notable differences.
Anything suspiciously different, and you will be subsequently called out.
Tracking Through Ethical Hacking Tools
There are hacking tools that companies can use in an entirely ethical manner on company devices and networks. Some of these tools include keyloggers and spyware that keep track of employee activities.
There also exists software that takes random screenshots during arbitrary intervals of time to help companies catch unproductive or ‘distracted’ workers.
Monitoring Remote Employees
The ongoing global pandemic has forced companies to embrace remote work, making it necessary for employers to track their remote teams. If your company has provided a device (laptop or phone) for work, the monitoring software will be installed on it.
If you’re using your own device for work, you’ll be asked to install the software on the device so that it can be monitored during working hours.
You may have concerns that you’ll be monitored even after work hours, but the monitoring software has a check-in, check-out system.
It starts tracking your activity only after you sign in to the program and stops tracking once you sign out.
Here is a brief rundown of everything that your employer can see:
|Using a company computer over their network||Anything that comes over its network – emails, instant messaging, files, keystrokes, browsing history|
|Using a company computer over personal network||Nothing unless they have a special software installed on your computer|
|Using a company mobile over their network||Anything that comes over its network – emails, instant messaging, files, keystrokes, browsing history|
|Using a company mobile over personal network||Google/Android allows employers to monitor their employees|
|Using a company computer/mobile over VPN||Nothing except that you are connected to a VPN|
|Using a company computer/mobile in incognito mode||Browser history is visible|
That said, let’s explore various ways to hide browsing history from employers.
How to Hide Browsing History From Employers?
Now that you have a better understanding of how employers track your online activity, we’ll tell you about the different ways that you can hide your browsing history.
Use Personal Device/Network for Private Browsing
The simplest way to hide your browsing history during work hours is to browse from your personal device. Use the office computer strictly for work-related browsing, and just use your phone for personal browsing, like checking your private mails.
Also, don’t connect your personal device to the office network but use your own cellular data. As long as you browse from your own device and network, your employers cannot monitor it.
Can an Employer See My Browsing History or Websites I Visit on My Private Wifi?
Technically, your employee cannot see your browsing history or websites when you are connected with your private Wi-Fi. However, the chances are high that they have a software installed on your work computer, thus tracking your activities.
Browse in Incognito
If your employer doesn’t implement any monitoring software and the browser’s history is the only thing you’re worried about, then just browse in incognito mode.
It doesn’t store any cookies, cache, and browsing history on the browser.
But it won’t be of use if advanced employee monitoring tools are also used, and your employer can still check the browsing history by contacting their ISP.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
If you have to use the company’s internet connection but still want to conceal your online activity, then a VPN can come to your rescue.
A VPN is a network that can route all the online traffic from a device to its own proxy servers. It hides your actual IP, assigns a different IP address to you, and encrypts all your online activity and browsing history.
You obviously can’t install a VPN on the office device for your personal use, so you’ll have to do it on your own device. If you have activated the VPN on your phone, then you can still connect to the company’s network, but your browsing activity will be encrypted, and your employer cannot track it.
But there is one important thing – when you’re using the company’s network, but through a VPN server, your employer can still see that a new device has connected.
And they may not see the activity of that device, but that also lets them know that it’s using a VPN. Basically, when you’re using a VPN when connected to your office Wi-Fi, your boss can’t see what you are doing, but they will know you are browsing through a VPN. And that much information is enough to put you into trouble.
So, only use a VPN on your office internet as long as you are not breaking any company rules.
Essentially, when you are browsing the web without a VPN, your employer can act as a man-in-the-middle. Your employer can set up the internet such that all the traffic that comes through your computer goes through their proxy first.
This way, they can intercept your connection, and track the websites you visit.
This is exactly when a VPN comes to your rescue and diverts your traffic through a secret tunnel such that it cannot be tracked by any third-party.
Best VPNs That Would Keep Things Private
Think of reliable names like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark.
Equipped with the best encryption protocols and safety standards, these VPNs will keep your web activity private.
Does a Work VPN Expose My Home Network When Working Remotely?
When you are connected via VPN, your employee can’t see what is on your home network. They can’t see any devices connected to your network, any files you share, and any websites you browse.
How to Bypass Administrator Rights Requirement When Installing a VPN?
The best way to install a VPN without admin rights is by using VPN extensions for Chrome and Firefox. For instance, you can use Hotspot Shield VPN browser extension and have your VPN protect your identity and hide your browser history on the go.
Use Split Tunneling
Even though split tunneling is a feature you’ll find in most premium VPNs, we’d like to discuss it separately. For those who don’t know, split tunneling is a unique VPN feature that lets you divide your traffic between the VPN’s encrypted connection and the normal unencrypted network.
So, for example, you can access work-related sites using the office network while also browsing other non-work-related sites through the VPN network at the same time with a split tunneling feature.
That way, you can hide your personal browsing history and only allow official online activities to be tracked and monitored.
If you can’t afford a decent VPN that can mask all your internet activities, then you might want to consider using TeamViewer.
TeamViewer is software that you can use to access one computer from another remotely.
This means that you would be able to access your home computer through your work computer while sitting in your office. Please note that you will need to set up the software on both devices for this software to work.
TeamViewer is not as secure as VPNs tend to be, but the connections that are established on this software are end-to-encrypted, which means that you will be able to effectively hide yourself online from your company.
However, it is important to remember that a network admin might still get suspicious when he/she notices that you have established a connection that looks a lot like VPN.
And if they are aware of the IP address of your home computer, then it wouldn’t be too difficult to put two and two together!
You must also keep in mind that if your employer uses keyloggers, it would be a piece of cake for them to get your TeamViewer login details.
This means that they would be able to access your home computer as well.
So, exercise some caution when it comes to using TeamViewer, especially if your employer’s monitoring skills are international spy-level!
Try To Disguise The Websites You Browse
Believe it or not, an entire industry has developed around helping employees shirk their duties and browse away on Facebook or Reddit during company hours.
This includes extensions and tools that employees can use to “disguise” their websites to look more work-related.
Basically, these are extensions that you can toggle on while browsing non-work-related websites, which will switch up the layout of the website as well as its appearance to make it look less conspicuous to onlookers.
One of the most common extensions that you can use to do this is called “Decreased Productivity,” and we must say that the name seems to be very apt for what it allows you to do.
Decreased Productivity is available as extensions on both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and it allows you to control exactly what your browsing site looks like!
For instance, you can use this to disguise your Facebook activities by switching up the iconic dark blue color (which would otherwise be a dead giveaway) to a simple back and whitewash to avoid suspicion. Decreased Productivity also allows you to cloak eye-catching images, switch up fonts and hide page favicons.
Another useful tool is MSOutlookKit, a handy portal that revamps your Reddit website to pass off as an email client to anybody peeping into your computer.
Use Keyboard Shortcuts
More often than not, employees get caught browsing non-work-related websites in an old-fashioned way: when employers sneak up behind them and catch them unawares.
Suppose a supervisor has a habit of snooping around the office. In that case, it might be beneficial for you to learn some handy keyboard shortcuts that can allow you to either immediately minimize a window or close a tab even before your supervisor has had a chance to take a peek.
Some of the most important keyboard shortcuts that you need to memorize are:
To close a tab
Ctrl + W
Cmd + W
To minimize a window
Win + D
Cmd + F3
To switch between different apps
Alt + Tab
Cmd + Tab
Use Your Mobile Phone
The above tips are all well and good, but they come with certain risks.
This is because you will still use the company network for most of your browsing activities or be exposed to advanced tracking tools.
To avoid any potential problems, you can turn towards one ingeniously simple solution: your mobile phone.
With your mobile phone, you will be able to browse your mobile data, thereby completely avoiding the company network altogether.
Avoid These Things On Your Work Computer
All of the above measures are definitely recommended if you wish to hide your browsing activities from your employer.
However, that being said, there are some general things that you need to refrain from doing when using a work computer or a company network.
This includes things like:
- Saving personal passwords on the device
- Keeping personal files on a company desktop
- Writing personal emails
- Sharing strong and unfavorable opinions about the company on a company chat, and most importantly,
- Looking for other jobs
What to Do Next?
Well, there you have it!
Everything you need to know to discreetly surf the web with your employer being none the wiser!
As you must have figured out, the best way to hide your browsing history from your employer is by using a reliable VPN with s strong encryption.
It helps you hide your identity online, masks your browser history, and keeps you anonymous on the web.