What you need to do to stop data from leaving with exiting employees

Having policies in place can help keep employees from walking out the door with company information.

It may come as a surprise, but more likely than not, when employees leave a company they’re taking company data with them. While it’s not always out of malicious intent, the amount of unprotected company information that walks out the door can result in bigger losses in the future.

Biscom’s national study around data in the workplace revealed that more than one in four employees leave their job with company data. The study spotlights employees as a big security vulnerability to business data. To help prevent this, Bill Ho, CEO of Biscom, offers a few tips to minimize this threat.

1. Establish clear employee policies on handling company data and information

Often, companies don’t have policies in place that prevent employees from taking company data with them. According to Biscom, 84 percent of employees claimed there were no policies preventing them from taking company information. To help prevent this, create comprehensive policies that are clear and thorough, outlining that all information, documents, and data created by the employee, or any other employee, are considered company property.

2. Incorporate data ownership and handling policies into employee agreements

Adding specific language and clear ramifications in offer letters and other company forms will immediately establish significance around protecting company data as you begin to onboard new employees. This will help each employee understand that all information created while at the company, is to be regarded as proprietary and confidential from Day 1.

3. Add data protection and security discussions to new employee orientation and training

Taking time to discuss data protection and basic security protocols will help increase awareness among your team and minimize data breaches. This is a good time to communicate policies such as using personal devices to access and complete company tasks, and using consumer versions of file sharing and collaboration tools. While using personal devices and popular EFSS tools such as Dropbox and Google Drive can be convenient, monitoring permission-based access and user controls can be difficult and lead to an open door of data loss.

4. Understand how to re-organize an attack or social engineering ploy

Knowing when and how to cancel accounts, block access and deny permissions will be key in protecting company data from internal threats. The longer critical information is unprotected and exposed, the more vulnerable your data and company is to harm.

5. Encourage reporting of suspicious activity

6 suspicious Thinkstock

Make it clear to all employees that any suspicious activity should be reported. Most often, some of the biggest data breaches come from an internal source, even if it was a mistake. Teach employees basic tips on phishing schemes and how to speak up if they suspect an internal threat.

6. Train on best practices continuously and often -- practice makes perfect

Hold quarterly meetings on data prevention with all employees. Frequent discussions and basic Q&A sessions will foster a transparent environment where employees feel comfortable with policies and using tools that are safe for the company.

7. Establish data classification and access permissions - limit access to those who need it, e.g. using the principle of least privilege

As more companies move to the cloud, tracking permissions and user access can get muddled and lost. Limit control starting with employees who don’t need total access and only give permission to information employees need. Keeping a spreadsheet that lists every employee’s access, tools and apps, can help you monitor and cancel accounts based on roles and if needed, departures.

8. Create a response plan and practice it

Proactivity around “when” instead of “if” will prepare your company in the event of an emergency and can help save your company from big losses. Having an emergency response plan (EAP) and procedures in place will establish a clear guide on what to do in the event of an attack. An EAP may also be necessary in the event an employee is terminated or fired under bad circumstances -- according to Biscom's data, 22 percent of respondents reported they would be more likely to steal company information if they were let go under bad circumstances.

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Ryan Francis

CSO (US)
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