Data Security – How Well Are You Protecting Your Company’s Greatest Asset?

It used to be said that people were a company’s greatest assets, but that may no longer be true. In today’s world, where more and more connected things are transmitting data, and larger and larger parts of the world are covered by 3, 4 and 5G, data is the new people. At least as far as business profitability is concerned.

Understanding data is the only way companies gain a competitive edge over each other. As their digital footprint increases, it becomes way too complicated for modern businesses to run on intuition and instinct alone. Databases may come and go, but data is permanent. It can change the very way a business does business.

Every click, every like, every online form ever filled in transmits vast and valuable information about us to the companies with which we transact. When collected and analysed correctly, the value of this data is almost incalculable. Which is what makes it so vulnerable to theft – particularly by former employees.

The Threat Of Theft – Is Your Data Security Ex-Employee Proof?

Data is undoubtedly an asset, and yet it is seldom treated as one. We hear about data leaks and theft all the time. Imagine the uproar if companies lost machinery, vehicles or buildings with the same frequency? Data seldom appears on balance sheets, yet its potential value outstrips that of more solid, tangible assets. And yet stolen data – unlike equipment or trucks – can never really be replaced. It’s like trying to replace a memory.

Why then, do more businesses not take greater pains to protect their data – particularly from disgruntled employees who have been retrenched or fired? Many companies still cite people as their biggest asset, but the truth is, they can also be your greatest liability.

Consider these worrying statistics:

  • Over 25% of employees take data when leaving a company.
  • 15% are more likely to steal data if they don’t leave their job voluntarily.
  • 85% of those who take data say it was material they had generated themselves and it was therefore not wrong to take it.
  • 95% of employees who took data said tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox and email made taking files is virtually effortless.

Despite this, companies are not doing as much as they should to protect their data when employees leave. The situation is further complicated by the growing trend for more employees to work remotely and use their own devices. Almost a third of companies in one survey didn’t wipe corporate data from employee-owned devices when they left, while almost half had no real idea what applications and other data sources departing employees had access to.

Data Security: What You Can Do

Most of the time, you would hope that when employees leave, they do so on amicable terms and take nothing more with them than experience. As statistics show, however, this is sadly not always the case. But there are steps you can take to minimise the risk.

Use The Right Systems

Having proper security systems in place should be every company’s top priority. Storing sensitive information in the Cloud, and not on site, helps to make it tamper proof. Employee access to this information can immediately be terminated as soon as they are given notice. This kind of technology also makes it far easier for IT departments to identify and recover any missing data.

Cancel Employee Email Accounts

This may seem a little obvious, but it is frightening how many companies neglect to do this until it’s too late. All employee email accounts and log-in credentials must be terminated as soon as that employee leaves. If there is any way it can be done earlier, even better. The employee should not have access to any data or software after they’ve left your employ.

Invoke “Garden Leave”

Many companies include a “garden leave” clause in their employee contracts. Essentially, this is the practice of making the employee stay at home – at full pay – during his notice period. This is an extremely useful clause to have, as it makes terminating email and other digital access much easier, as it can be done as soon as notice is given.

Ensure All Electrical Equipment Is Returned

This again sounds obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to overlook. Company cell phones, laptops and computers must all be returned to the company on departure, if not before. Any backups of information the employee has made must also be returned with the devices.

There’s no escaping the fact that data is an asset. And protecting it is absolutely critical. At Strategic Asset Management Solutions (SAMS) we bring together all the key elements of your organisation – information technology, economics, engineering, environmental sustainability and people – to form a holistic approach that ensures the protection and sustainability of your natural and social assets. Talk to us today about data security.

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