A clear breakdown of everything your employer can (or can't) see on your computer

My Wirecutter colleague Thorin Klosowski has written a great new article on what not to do on your employer-issued computer. He consulted with security experts at the New York Times as well as Vantage Technology Consulting Group and more to get an overall idea of the different kinds of access levels that different companies can get.

Employers can install software to monitor what you do on your work-issued laptop or desktop. In the most watchful of workplaces, this may include keyloggers that can see everything you type or screenshot tools that track your productivity. What type of surveillance and security software is installed on your company computer is often based on two factors: how large the company is (and what resources it has to dedicate to this) and what type of information you deal with in your role. If you work with sensitive materials, such as health records, financial data, or government contracts, you can count on your employer keeping a careful eye on what you do.

For most of us, the fear of being heavily surveilled at work is unwarranted. Jesse Krembs, senior information security analyst at The New York Times, said, “Without supporting evidence, at scale this is pretty rare. It tends to generate a lot of useless data, rope the employer into liability issues, and generally make the team that monitors these surveillance systems miserable. That being said, almost all large companies have a targeted program for doing this, especially for dealing with suspected insider threat or fraud.”

Read the rest

That time I blew up a power strip with a Marshall amp and a space heater

Over at Wirecutter, I have some handy advice for how to live safely with a space heater. Which is to say, don't do what I did:

It was the winter of 2019, and I was down in my unfinished basement putting the finishing touches on my band’s next album. I had to get through only a few more guitar overdubs, but my fingers were too cold to play the parts quite right. So I grabbed a space heater I was long-term testing for Wirecutter. I placed it down on top of the wooden workbench where my digital audio workstation was set up and plugged it into the nearest power strip, which just so happened to be the same one through which I ran my half-stack Marshall amplifier.

I turned the heater on. Five seconds later, the power strip blew up.

This might not have been the single dumbest thing I’d ever done in my life. But as I watched the sparks fade from the smoldering lump of freshly burnt plastic before me, I knew it was up there on the list.

There was one commenter who very much did not enjoy this self-deprecating anecdote. But there is more to the article than that, including some (hopefully) useful and relatable tips for keeping warm in the winter without risking your life and/or destroying everything you own. This is especially helpful if you, like me, live in the Northeast of the United States, which has been suffering through a nasty cold front lately. Read the rest

Why The NYT buying The Wirecutter is such a big deal

Yesterday, we learned The Wirecutter (with sister site The Sweethome) was headed to New York City. It's the sort of good ending that's also a good beginning: they succeeded in their mission and have bright prospects for further growth. But Matt Haughey points out how much of the story everyone's missing: the entire site is a mere 1,000 posts.

I don’t think anyone gives Brian the credit he deserves

1. He single-handedly built his own empire without having to cater to advertisers or investors. 2. He built a site that made revenue in a way that was previously uncharted. 3. He built it according to his own rules, without needing to pressure writers and editors to publish as often as possible. 4. He built a brand and a site that launched many copycats but no one ever matched it. 5. His sites work thanks to trust built up between readers and writers, and it works because editors help maintain integrity since the day it launched. 6. He did it all in a place far, far from the tech hubs of SF and NYC, in Honolulu. Where he gets to surf almost daily.

Not great taste in sub-cubic foot microwave ovens tho. Read the rest