Five data leak nightmares

When Home Depot lost a laptop containing personal information on 10000 employees, it was just the latest in a string of high-profile data-leak incidents.

Nightmare five: Downsizing disasters - Data theft increases during mergers, layoffs and reorganizations

When a company announces a merger - or worse, downsizing - employee loyalty can be undermined. "The amount of data offloading during these events is huge," says Robert Yonowitz, a partner with Fisher & Phillips, a law firm that specializes in labor and employment law.

Often, organizations plan poorly for these events, worsening the problem. For example, if a company announces a 10% staff reduction but doesn't say who is safe and who isn't, then the risk of data theft goes up significantly.

If your company isn't expecting to downsize or reorganize anytime soon, don't think that you can rest easy. The same dynamics are in place, albeit on a much smaller scale, any time key employees change jobs. When an employee leaves the company, that person has usually been planning for a month or two prior, which is when most data theft occurs.

According to Yonowitz, 90% of the data loss cases he sees involve customer lists. For instance, when marketing or sales representatives move to competitors, they often promise to bring business with them.

Business relationships fall into a nebulous area. Legally, the company owns the business relationship and the key information the employee gleaned while on the job, but the employee certainly has the right to maintain and update the personal relationships that underpin those larger business relationships.

It's OK, then, for an employee to announce a job change to key contacts. That person could very well be violating a non-compete clause, though, if the announcement is more like a solicitation.

The instances that companies lose sleep over, though, usually go well beyond relationship gray areas. "These cases aren't just about people taking names and addresses, but what I call the 'customer playbook,'" Yonowitz says. "These are things like buying habits, contract terms, expiration dates on those contracts, and the status of potential deals that haven't yet closed."

Time is of the essence in these cases. Yonowitz estimates that 90% of the damage is done within two weeks after the employee's departure. If you don't catch the data loss quickly and respond right away, the damage will already be done.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Vance

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?