What monitoring software is, who needs it and why
Monitoring software is a specialized computer program that records all activities of PC users.
The date and time when the computer was switched on and off, all keystrokes pressed on the keyboard and the exact time when they were pressed, mouse clicks and mouse movements – all these data monitoring programs record. In addition, functions of this kind of software include intercepting information from windows and contents of clipboard, making screenshots of active windows at certain intervals, (and video recording of the screen, if necessary), tracking file activity and changes in the system registry, recording all received and sent electronic messages, as well use of the printer. Also, such programs often can intercept the sound from the microphone and images from webcams connected to the computer. Functionality of different monitoring programs may vary, depending on the purpose of the particular product, vendor, etc.
Most often monitoring software products are used:
- by companies – to control employees for compliance of their actions at the workplace with the company’s internal regulatory documents and the laws of the country or jurisdiction;
- by individuals, with the purpose of parental control to ensure whether the children’s PC activity doesn’t break the rules set by parents;
- by PC users themselves who install this software on their own computers to fulfil certain tasks.
Monitoring software products can be known under different names, depending on their purpose or functions, i.e.:
- Employee monitoring software (workplace monitoring software, computer surveillance in the workplace) — these software products are intended for tracking and controlling activity of PC users at the workplace. This kind of monitoring is usually allowed, if the employer owns computers, the local network and Internet access.
- Parental control software — these programs are used for parental control, i.e. for monitoring home PCs in families with children and teenagers;
- Access control software — these software products are intended to control users’ access to a computer or particular programs or apps installed on it, or to particular web resources;
- Computer monitoring software is a generic term that denotes software used for monitoring. Designed to monitor and control the actions of PC users;
- Software products intended primarily for registering keystrokes on a keyboard are called keyloggers (a.k.a. key loggers, keystroke loggers, key recorders, key trappers, keylogging programs, key capture programs, etc). However, modern keyloggers have many additional features, in addition to just logging keystrokes. They can intercept contents of windows, make screenshots, etc. It means that the program now called ‘a keylogger’, actually is a monitoring program.
- Spy software, strictly speaking, is not the same as “spyware” – as long as such programs are used legitimately, i.e. without violating any laws. Often, software vendors call their monitoring programs ‘spyware’ exclusively for marketing purposes – to attract new customers.
If you are an owner of the company, its director or security officer, authorized use of monitoring programs will enable you to do the following:
- Control use of personal computers during working and non-working hours: for example, you will be able to find out what was typed on the keyboard, what each employee who worked on this PC did, and so on;
- prevent misconduct and violation of security policies – from the activities not related to work during working hours to disclosing confidential information;
- get access to the information on the computer’s hard disk in case the login and password are lost;
- timely detect attempts of unauthorized access to the PC by means of a brute force attack;
- successfully investigate computer incidents;
- recover important information after computer system failures;
- and much more.
If you are a conscious and caring parent, use of monitoring software will allow you to:
- limit the time your child spends at the computer;
- limit or prohibit launch of particular programs and applications when your child uses the PC;
- allow your child to launch particular programs and applications;
- limit the time, for which certain programs could be used;
- prevent your child from visiting specific sites or sites devoted to specific topics;
- track the content of the websites visited by your child.