What Your Employees Are Doing With Your Data and How To Secure It

Top business consultants will tell you the money is in the list - your customer is the lifeblood of your business.

But in today’s world, the money is also in data - if your data is breached, stolen, or destroyed, it can be the end of your business.

While there are constant messages about securing your data from criminal behavior, that might not be where you should focus your energy. Yes, criminal behavior is always a risk. However, employees can be equally detrimental.

Cloud technology, remote working, and unlimited access from anywhere have opened up the potential for theft. You trust your employees. Why would they bring harm? Would they really steal data and what would they target?

Why employees target data

It’s only natural to think, “Not my employees.” Learning a trusted employee is taking and using your data beyond the intended use is difficult at best. But it may occur more than you think.

According to the 2022 Cost of Insider Threats: Global Report, malicious, negligent, and compromised users are a growing risk, having risen 44 percent over the past two years alone.

Employees take data for many reasons:

Corporate espionage - they need money and stealing proprietary data and selling it to the highest bidder may be attractive to a desperate employee.

Poaching employees - outstanding employees with an eye for advancement may choose to say “yes” to a competitor and bring your data and trade secrets with them.

Start-ups - motivated employees with a penchant for advancement may take what they learn from you and open up a practice to do it themselves.

Spite - if employees hold a grudge, they may take data simply because they can.

What data employees take

While criminals take data for profit, employees aren’t as motivated by money. They may have other reasons to take data:

Internal data - with today’s collaborative tools, employees have access to a variety of data showcasing different parts of your business. Did you recently present at a medical conference? Did you sign a contract with a partner? While this may seem like harmless data upfront, it can build timelines and alert competitors to your systems and strategies when collected as a whole.

Customer data - employees might not be taking it to sell to a cybercriminal, but taking and keeping confidential information for any reason can put you at risk. Do you see high-profile patients? Do you have data that would be detrimental if it fell into the wrong hands? This sensitive data might be at risk if it’s sitting on your employee’s home computer.

R&D - what makes your practice unique might be your downfall if others get the technology. Every practice has trade secrets, secret sauces, and confidential strategies for doing what they do. If you're well known in your geographical location or industry, your employees may be vulnerable to taking that and sharing it with others.

Preventing data loss

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to keeping your data safe. It’s on a case-by-case basis, creating security practices that make sense for you. But in general, you can start with these concepts:

Create contract clauses - before an employee works with you, have them sign a contract to indicate they understand they are responsible for protecting your company data. Have non-compete clauses that prevent them from taking your data to a competitor or starting a business in the industry. Have a monitoring system that watches employees after they quit and move on.

Detection systems - there are many technical tools that can alert you to data access. You can start by setting up different access levels, giving employees entry only to what’s needed. Alert systems provide insight if employees go where they shouldn’t be.

Response strategies - robust security practices start by defining every step of the way. What will you do if you detect intrusion? How will you approach employees if you think you have a problem? Don’t wait until it happens; clearly define it first. This makes it easier if and when it happens.

What’s your strategy?

It starts with a strategy. What’s your approach?

If you have a question about data security, or how to create employee training for improved safety, it starts with the details. One step at a time.

Employees can be your downfall. Recognize it. Take action. And stay secure.

For IT Strategy, Cloud Conversion, or Help Desk Services reach out to us at Silver Linings Technology 360-450-4759.