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Computer forensics the latest ploy to monitor employees

Moving beyond merely monitoring employees' Internet use, many of the nation's largest companies are quietly assembling teams of computer investigators who specialize in covertly copying employees' hard drives and combing them for evidence of workplace wrongdoing. These high-tech investigators employ tools . . .
Moving beyond merely monitoring employees' Internet use, many of the nation's largest companies are quietly assembling teams of computer investigators who specialize in covertly copying employees' hard drives and combing them for evidence of workplace wrongdoing. These high-tech investigators employ tools and techniques that originally were devised for law enforcement to catch criminals but that are now spreading rapidly in the private sector at Microsoft, Disney, Boeing, Motorola, Fluor, Caterpillar and dozens of other major companies.

The development, little known outside the narrow community of corporate security experts, is sure to raise tensions over workplace privacy in an age when the lives of millions of workers are inextricably tied to their office computers.

Employers say that their rush into the field known as "computer forensics" is a matter of self-defense, that being able to retrieve computer evidence is essential to their ability to catch employees engaged in everything from spending too much time surfing the Internet to stealing company secrets.

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