Cybersecurity Expert Explains Why You Should Never Combine Work & Your Personal Life On The Same Phone & Computer

If you've ever wondered if your employer is spying on you, the answer is yes.

woman being spied on by her employer AndreyPopov / Getty Images / Canva Pro

Most of us know better than to ever look at anything even remotely off-color or "not safe for work" on our company-issued computers or phones. But is that enough to secure our privacy from our employers, even in our off-hours? 

One veteran IT professional says absolutely not, and her insight might have you taking a trip to the nearest cell phone store.

The cybersecurity professional says to never combine your work and personal devices like phones and computers.

Most of us with corporate jobs have some level of "separation of church and state," if you will, when it comes to our tech devices — either company-issued corporate-owned laptops and phones or our own devices with separate user accounts for work and our regular lives.


But it seems like a whole lot of us are just winging it and letting one company-owned device do the job — many can't afford to buy separate devices, after all. Still, it's a really strange thing to do if you think about it.

@ashley.houghton You couldn’t pay me to have a work phone and personal phone combined #corporate #corporatelife #workphone #spying #privacy #company #workforce ♬ original sound - Ashley

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To have your personal communications, photos, social media posts, and everything else all housed on one device your job owns? Yikes. As TikToker Ashley Houghton put it, "You couldn’t pay me to have a work phone and personal phone combined."

And Scarlett, a veteran cybersecurity professional, says this isn't just paranoia. "Yes," she said in a recent TikTok, "your company is spying on you."

Employers can access basically everything on work-owned equipment without you even knowing it.

We tend to think of things like emails, files, and personal communications as private for the most part, right? But Scarlett and other IT professionals say that's not remotely true — anything on your company-owned equipment is fair game for your employer's eyes, no matter how personal.

And that does mean everything. As Scarlett explained, most companies' IT departments have functionalities that let them view the entire contents of the device without you having any idea they've even been in there.


These apps are called MDMs for Mobile Device Management. Once they're installed on your device, your employer can view absolutely everything, including calls, voicemails, texts, photos, and your physical location — all without you knowing.

They can also remotely wipe all the data from the device if need be without you knowing or giving permission. It may seem like there'd be no reason to ever do so, but one IT professional in the comments raised an all too common problem — password losses and breaches.

If a password or two-factor authentication issue is such that the only way to keep the company's data safe is to wipe the device, they're gonna wipe the device — and if you've been mixing your personal and work use, that means all your personal stuff is gone forever too.


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But it goes beyond just company-owned equipment. Work-related apps on your personal devices are also fair game.

It probably goes without saying that your employer has access to any work-related and work-installed apps on your personal devices. But as Scarlett explained in a follow-up video, many people don't consider the implications those can have.

Obviously, this means any communications you send through apps like Slack or Teams are readable by your employer — including all those messages making fun of your boss. So stop that!

@scarletenigmatic About work applications on personal phones #cybersecurity ♬ original sound - Scarlett

But it also means that, in the case of email, for instance, any message you send with the company's domain on it is readable by your employer—including those emails you send between your work and personal addresses.


As an example, one person in the comments asked if their employer could see all the jobs from Indeed he found during his breaks and emailed to himself so he could apply to them later. The answer is yes, and for many companies, this is exactly the kind of seemingly innocuous use that would arouse suspicion.

Combining your work and personal devices can even land you in legal hot water.

Now, obviously, you're a blameless, law-abiding citizen who would never even consider doing anything remotely off-color, let alone illegal, right?

Ah but! What if your coworkers or company officers are doing crimes instead of spreadsheets? Supposing your boss is doing some light embezzling on his lunch hour? Maybe the CFO is a full-tilt Bernie Madoff!

@attorneyryan I always subpoena phone records in these cases because i almost always find something suspicious on their data #workstories #worklife #datingstories ♬ original sound - Attorney Ryan

Scarlett explained that if you ever used a personal device to access work materials or documents, both the contents of your device and the device itself now become fair game for discovery in lawsuits and subpoenas in criminal investigations.


The bottom line? Don't mix business with pleasure, separate church and state, don't [expletive] where you eat! Keep your work and personal lives separate and be careful about how you're using work-related apps. The potential drama just isn't worth it.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.