Ways To Protect Sensitive Data from Former Employees


The safety of your company's data is of the utmost importance. This is why it can be worrisome when an employee who had access to sensitive information leaves the company. It's troubling enough to think about a possible data breach from an outside source, but even worse when it's from one of your own. Willingly exposing your company's details to the competition could result in a lost contract or someone else beating you to market with a similar product to your own new invention. Take steps to protect your secure records by employing the following steps.


Make Confidentiality Part of Onboarding

Stress the importance of keeping company information safe and secure by including a brief tutorial of security practices in the onboarding process. Make your new employees aware of any potential consequences that they could face by sharing this information outside of the company.

Require all new hires to sign off on company policy and agree to keep quiet. If an employee decides to leave, you can remind them of this previous contract to try and prevent them from giving away any secrets.


Change Passwords Often

Most everything is completed and stored on computers these days. Hard copies of records are rare, but should still be secured under lock. Keeping your electronic data safe comes with a whole different set of challenges. One thing you can do to encourage protection is to mandate that employees update their passwords on a regular basis. Most programs provide a fail safe where access is denied until this happens. Instruct your employees to use hard to guess passwords and keep them in a locked drawer if they must write it down somewhere.


Use Security Software

A Multi-Factor Authentication system can be a great tool for your organization. This software sets up layers of security to gain entry to any data. Your employees will need multiple credentials to prove their identity. There are three different categories of acceptable credentials. The first is something that you know, and requires a password, numerical code, or answer to a security question. The second barrier is something you physically have in your possession, like a mobile device showing a QR code to scan or a key card. Thirdly, is something that you are, in body, and needs a fingerprint or facial scan. This a great way to add near impenetrable security since its impossible to fake or hack some of these things.

If your company uses multi-factor authentication, then any former employees would have a hard time accessing and distributing data since they are likely required to hand over any badges or cards, and won't be in the building to provide facial recognition.


Limit Access to Important Data

Not everyone that works for you needs to be privy to all aspects of the business. Consider categorizing your data and only allowing those who need to know, access to the more important things. You can simply block higher security levels from entrance without additional passwords. Or, you can house the computers that work with this information in a locked room, requiring the monitoring of everyone who comes and goes to limit access.


Keep Devices on Premises

Sometimes companies allow, or even require, working from home on occasion. But, this can be a security risk if you are letting employees login to business systems from home, or taking laptops and work phones out of the building. They can easily be lost or stolen. And a family member could see the project that is being worked on, or perhaps the employee forgets to close out the program and leaves it up for the next computer user to see. Eliminate this possibility by requiring all devices to stay on the premises. You may even want to restrict use of personal electronics like cell phones that could be used to record or capture data.


Process Termination Expediently

If an employee has been privileged to work with secure information, watch them closely when they are getting ready to leave the company. Notice any hostile or strange behavior. If something seems off, a conversation may need to be had, or access cut off sooner than expected. Remind them of any paperwork they signed that agrees to keeping information confidential. Legal action should be avoided, but in extreme cases could be an option if too much damage was done and an obvious breach of conduct committed.


Once they do leave, make the termination process a priority. Confiscate any keys, badges, or equipment that they had been issued. Require the employee to clear out their files and desk and dispose of any documents in the proper way. Also, close out their account and cancel access to all programs and networks as soon as possible.


You can prevent a great deal of trouble for yourself by taking the right steps to secure your data. Most former employees will be respectful, but have measures in place so you don't have to wonder, and can relax knowing everything is taken care of.