by Paul Rudo on 26/07/12 at 10:00 am
When employees work for your company, they accumulate large amounts of proprietary internal business knowledge that would disappear if they ever left the organization.
That’s why it’s important to capture this information using automated systems such as Wikis, document management systems, social business apps, etc… ensuring that this internal information can be captured and saved in case it is needed after these employees leave the organization.
Having this data in digital format – stored in a centralized database – ensures that it can also be more easily shared, searched, and analyzed. These repositories become a goldmine of actionable business data that can support strategic decisions and expose new opportunities or risks.
But what about the other side of the coin?
When employees leave the organization, they can also take sensitive internal data with them when they go. This is why it’s important to maintain strict control over governance, security and compliance.
Your company should be backing up every document produced by employees. This includes data on mobile devices, USB sticks, desktops and laptops. You need to set and enforce policies that ensure nothing is lost when that employee leaves.
Aditionally, employees should not be able to implement and work on new cloud applications without the approval of the IT department. Nothing’s worse than having an employee accumulate years of work on a SaaS product, and then lock you out of this resource when they leave.
Data leaks can hurt the organization in several ways. Leaked internal corporate data can make it into the hands of competitors. And leaked customer information can expose the company to legal liability.
When employees leave the company, they may take data with them for both malicious and “innocent” reasons.
- If an employee leaves on bad terms, they may take work document with them in hopes of hurting the company or helping a competitor.
- An employee who leaves on good terms may take confidential data with them for sentimental reasons if they feel a sense of ownership over their contributions. They may also feel that this stolen data may come in handy later on for personal reference. These employees may often not even realize that what they’re doing is immoral or even illegal.
Corporate data theft is a growing problem… both in terms of its frequency and in terms of the potential harm to companies. And society’s changing attitudes towards privacy and copyright infringement will only fan the flames.
A recent survey by Iron Mountain has put some concrete numbers on this alarming trend. They recently surveyed 2000 office workers across Europe.
- 32% of workers surveyed have admitted to stealing confidential corporate information on at least one occasion.
- For employees who take customer data with them after they leave, customer data and internal databases are the primary targets 51% of the time.
- The most sensitive time for information theft is when an employee leaves the company.
- 72% of those surveyed said that stolen internal corporate data could be helpful in their future careers.
- 31% of those surveyed would that they would retaliate to a dismissal by deliberately stealing and/or sharing sensitive corporate data.
Considering that European culture places a higher value on privacy than other parts of the world, and that the EU has some strict information privacy regulations, I’d expect these numbers to be even more pronounced when spread internationally.
Companies need to get aggressive in order to deal with this crisis. This may mean better employee education, stricter policy enforcement, more limitations on access, and a number of other measures.
What measures has your company implemented for dealing with the possibility of employees taking data with them? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.