How can I protect my office computer from wandering eyes when I am not at my workstation?
This question was answered on February 7, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
It's no secret that co-workers are likely to sneak a peak at what is being displayed on an unattended computer screen, especially in a competitive environment.
With today’s larger clearer displays, it’s even easier to see them from a farther distance as well, so start by placing your display in a location that does not make it easy for someone passing by to take a look.
If you work in a ‘cube farm’ (cubicles), often times the desk space is configured to have your back to the opening, which exposes your screen to everyone that passes by If at all possible, try to place the display in a place that will prevent this or try adjusting the angle of the screen.
If you have an actual office, keep these things in mind for the doorway or any windows that would give passersby an easy view.
Next, make sure that you have your screen saver set to activate after a short period of inactivity, (5-10 minutes if you use your computer infrequently and 10-15 minutes if you use it constantly) and activate the password option, which will ask for a password when an attempt is made to resume usage of the system.
In Windows 98 or ME, you can access this feature by clicking on Start, Settings, Control Panel then Display Properties Click on the Screen Saver tab then look for the Password protected box and click the Change Button Enter your desired password, and then confirm the password by typing it again
In Windows 2000 or XP, click on Start, Settings, Control Panel then open the Display icon Click on the Screen Saver tab and put a checkmark in the ‘On resume, display the Welcome screen’ box, which will force the use of the username password.
You can also adjust the amount of time before the screen saver activates to a length that is short enough to protect your computer when you are away, but not so short it turns on every time you pause to look at your notes or take a sip of coffee.
By default, Windows 98 and ME have no way to instantly activate the screen saver without installing a third party program such as Acez Jumpstart available at www.acez.com/jumpstart.htm or creating a special shortcut on the desktop that will immediately start a screensaver I have posted instructions on how to create a shortcut to a screen saver at www.tinyurl.com/4t2i.
The security features in Windows 2000 and XP are far superior to 98 and ME so you can use a Windows shortcut to quickly lock out the workstation by pressing the Windows Logo key (usually located between the Ctrl and Alt keys) and the letter ‘L’ at the same time.
This will place the system at the Windows logon screen, which will require the selection of a valid username and the associated password to regain access to the system Any open programs that were open at the time of the lock-down will remain open and available, so you don’t need to close all of your programs every time you plan to leave your desk.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on February 7, 2003