When employees leave, it is not just about more paperwork and recruitment efforts. In fact, enterprises must also make sure that confidential data does not leave with the departing employees. According to Osterman Research, 69% of organization surveyed indicated that departing employees pose a threat of data leakage.
It is important to know “why” departing employees might leak confidential data. Often, the reasons are classified into two characteristics: accidental and malicious. Accidental data leaks are closely related to employees’ negligence of what confidential data means for enterprises and of potential consequences for data leaks. Ponemon Institute study showed that over 50% of the reasons why departing employees took confidential data was the perception that “everyone else did it when they left.”Meanwhile, malicious data leaks are about personal interests. Lately, many enterprises are warned of malicious data leaks, as data has increased in its monetary value, and competition among corporations, which may lead to corporate espionage cases, has never been fiercer.
Then, what are the four potential threats and how do employees attempt to leak the confidential data on their way out?
1) Employees depart with confidential data in their hands, literally.
Whether accidental or malicious, departing employees have a variety of ways to take confidential data on their way out. One of the easiest ways is to secretly export confidential data to employees’ storage devices like USB drives, external hard drives, and even CD/DVDs.In 2017, a data leakage case that involved global semiconductor firm Micron, which suffered data leakage of monetary scale up to hundreds of millions of dollars, was caused by ex-employees who used USB drives to export and steal intellectual properties.
2) Departed employees access old enterprise accounts.
Google Suite, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox… Enterprises now rely on cloud-based storage networks for their daily operations, for their convenience and functionality. Therefore, when employees depart, it is crucial that all accounts with access to confidential data are completely deleted. If not done so, enterprises face another risk of data leakage. Personnel changes or big layoffs are already a big burden, but acknowledging the importance of deactivating enterprise accounts must never be ignored.
3) Departed employees instruct current insiders to take confidential data for them.
Even if the relationship between departed employees and the enterprises has been severed for good, those employees can still find a way to get confidential data in their hands. By asking the current employees privately, departed employees can indirectly obtain confidential data, delivered online or offline. Because this case involves multiple individuals in and out of enterprises, a systematic approach that combines both organizational measures and technological solutions are required.
4) Remnant confidential data can be recovered from the PCs previously used by departing employees.
After the employees depart, it is a common practice to reassign enterprise PCs to new employees or dispose of them for good. Before doing so, enterprises initially format the hard disks to make sure that none of the remnant data are recoverable. However, this is insufficient to completely stop data leaks because disk formatting merely removes the path to remnant data, not the data itself. Therefore, proper data erasure, not conventional file deletion commands, must be the priority in preventing potential data leaks through data recovery.
For enterprises, departing employees must mean more than extra paperwork and recruitment efforts, because they can unexpectedly become a source of data leakage, which can be catastrophic to enterprises. It is a tough challenge; however, knowing the four potential methods of data leaks by departing employees, as mentioned above, is a solid starting point to ensure that none of the confidential data leave the enterprise premises.