Exiting workers taking confidential data with them

New Ponemon Institute survey finds that people who lost or left a job in 2008 are sneaking confidential data out with them.

As layoffs continue apace, a survey released on Monday shows what many companies fear--exiting workers are taking a lot more with them than just their personal plants and paperweights.

Of about 950 people who said they had lost or left their jobs during the last 12 months, nearly 60 percent admitted to taking confidential company information with them, including customer contact lists and other data that could potentially end up in the hands of a competitor for the employee's next job stint.

"I don't think these people see themselves as being thieves or as stealing," said Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute, which conducted the online survey last month. "They feel they have a right to the information because they created it or it is useful to them and not useful to the employer."

The survey also found a correlation between people who took data they shouldn't have taken and their attitude towards the company they are leaving. More than 60 percent of those who stole confidential data also reported having an unfavorable view of the company. And nearly 80 percent said they took it without the employer's permission.

Most of the data takers (53 percent) said they downloaded the information onto a CD or DVD, while 42 percent put it on a USB drive and 38 percent sent it as attachments via e-mail, according to the survey.

The survey also found that many companies seem to be lax in protecting against data theft during layoffs. Eighty-two percent of the respondents said their employers did not perform an audit or review of documents before the employee headed out the door and 24 percent said they still had access to the corporate network after leaving the building.

The survey was commissioned by Symantec, which offers software that helps companies protect against data loss by indexing database and monitoring for patterns of word combinations that might be used by exiting employees to steal data. The Symantec software also can monitor outbound e-mail for confidential data and alert IT if large amounts of certain types of data, such as Social Security numbers, are being copied to removable storage devices.

 

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