Survey: 59 percent of fired workers steal data on way out

A survey of 945 individuals found that more than half of booted workers steal data

A survey of 945 individuals who were laid off, fired or quit their jobs in the past 12 months shows that 59 percent admitted to stealing company data and 67 percent used their former company's confidential information to leverage a new job.

That's according to the "Jobs at Risk = Data at Risk" survey published Monday by Ponemon Institute. The research firm found that 61% of respondents who felt negatively about the company took data while only 26 percent of those with a favorable view did. Only 31 percent of those surveyed said they had "trust" in their former employer to "act with integrity and fairness," 25 percent were "unsure" and 44 percent did not have trust.

Of the 945 individuals in the survey, which was sponsored by Symantec, 37 percent said they were asked to leave, 38 percent said they had found a new job and 21 percent moved on because they anticipated lay-offs.

The respondents described their work roles as 20 percent corporate information technology, 10 percent financial and accounting, 24 percent sales, 8 percent marketing and communications, and the remainder spread across fields that include general management, logistics and transportation, research and development, and human resources. They came from close to two dozen vertical industries, such as manufacturing or healthcare, as well as education and government.

"There are many tragic scenarios now where people are under tremendous pressure," says Kevin Rowney, founder of the DLP division at Symantec, which sponsored the survey because it wanted more insight into the data-theft problem.

Rowney says he personally knows of a bank using the Symantec data-loss prevention products where employees on the day they were laid off all tried to grab corporate information about high-worth individuals thinking it could help them in the future.

According to the survey, taking e-mail-related information and hardcopy files were the most popular types of documents to walk away with, according to the survey. Least popular were PDF files, accessing database files or stealing source code outright. Theft was carried out by simply walking out with paper documents or transferring data onto a CD, DVD, USB memory stick or sending documents out as e-mail attachments to a personal e-mail account.

Some admitted they knew taking information with them was wrong, but 79 percent of those who did admit to taking information without permission offered various reasons why they did it, including "everyone else does," the information may be useful in the future and "the company can't trace the information back to me."

Rowney says he believes a lot of this behavior is "emotional in a time of stress" rather than "sneaking individuals" carefully plotting a data heist over months. "A lot is in the heat of the moment, people make unwise decisions," he believes.

Surprisingly, 24% of these former employees responding to the survey said they still had access to their former employer's computer systems after they left, with over 50% citing between one day to a week, but 20% more than a week.

While Rowney acknowledges "there is no silver bullet" to prevent all paper and electronic data theft, there are many steps that companies can take to use technology and enforcement of clearly-defined data-protection policies to prevent a lot of the problems.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags disgruntled employees

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

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?