SelfInformed

August 2011


Don’t Let Departing Employees Get Away With The Goods

Friday, July 29, 2011

By Mindy Charski

Think of all the critical information your home-based business generates: intellectual property, sensitive customer data, financial reports, and that incredible marketing campaign you’re launching next quarter.

Now think of those assets leaving with a departing employee and the potential scenarios that could result. Gives you the shivers, right?

Sure, it’s comforting to think your staffers wouldn't take what privacy analyst Mike Spinney of the Ponemon Institute calls “parting gifts” when they leave your workplace, but it may also be naïve.

A 2009 study from that research firm found that 59 percent of respondents kept company data after leaving their employer. Among the most popular methods of sneaking out information: taking hard copy files, downloading onto a CD, DVD or USB memory stick, and sending documents as email attachments.

Fortunately here are five steps you can take—even with limited resources—to help reduce the risk of data theft before and after an employee leaves.

1. Secure Your Network

“It’s essential to understand [information technology] security is an ongoing process,” says Mike Shafer, owner of Shafer Consulting, an IT consultancy in Pittsburg, Pa., that often works with small businesses.

Many measures that protect data from outside threats do the same for internal ones. For instance, you should:

  • Back up data regularly
  • Disable USB ports except for printers
  • Maintain a firewall
  • Use encryption software as well as anti-virus and anti-spyware software


2. Control Entry To Files

“People can’t steal or damage what they can’t access,” Shafer says.

Allow employees to view only the company data they need to do their jobs.

“While yes, [salespeople] do know the customers they call on, they don’t need to see the entire customer list,” Shafer says.

3. Set Expectations About Data

Create a written, enforceable policy that delineates proprietary information that must stay put from resources that employees are allowed to take with them.

4. Shut The Gates

Promptly change passwords, cut off email accounts, block remote access, and seal off any other way an ex-employee could access company documents.

5. Inspect At The Exits

Do a physical check of anything you allow staffers to retain, including paper documents and company-issued devices like laptops and smartphones, Spinney says.

“Too often the departing employee gets a free pass from the former employer because, in a very small business, there may be a sense of discomfort in asking the individual to undergo such a process, unless the circumstances are acrimonious,” Spinney says.

“But that’s a mistake.”

Better to check now than be sorry later.


As a freelancer who works alone, internal data theft is one business challenge that writer Mindy Charski doesn't have to worry about.


The NASE Can Help

Use these NASE resources to help manage your home-based business:

  • Legal Club of America for free and discounted legal services—included in the NASE’s Gold Package
  • More articles about starting and running your home business
  • Ask The Experts for one-on-one guidance about legal issues, marketing, human resources and more from the NASE professionals


Read this article in PDF form here.