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Symantec: Employees Don’t Believe Stealing Corporate Data is Wrong

According to a recent study from Symantec, employees who leave a job, on their own or due to being fired, tend to keep confidential information and other corporate data, and have no problems using it at their next place of employment.

According to a recent study from Symantec, employees who leave a job, on their own or due to being fired, tend to keep confidential information and other corporate data, and have no problems using it at their next place of employment.

A survey of 3,317 people, conducted on behalf of Symantec by The Ponemon Institute, shows that of those who lost their job or left their job in the last 12 months have taken confidential corporate data with them, and forty percent of those people plan to use it at their new place of employment. In fact, fifty-six percent of those surveyed do not believe it is a crime to use a competitor’s trade secret information. Likely, this mistaken belief is due to the fact that corporations are still struggling to deal with the flow of data inside and outside of their network walls.

According to the study’s findings, only 47 percent said their organization takes action when employees take sensitive information contrary to company policy and 68 percent said their organization does not take steps to ensure employees do not use confidential competitive information from third-parties. This Symantec says, is proof positive that organizations are failing when it comes to creating an environment and culture that promotes employees’ responsibility and accountability in protecting IP.

“Companies cannot focus their defenses solely on external attackers and malicious insiders who plan to sell stolen IP for monetary gain. The everyday employee, who takes confidential corporate data without a second thought because he doesn’t understand it’s wrong, can be just as damaging to an organization,” said Lawrence Bruhmuller, vice president of engineering and product management at Symantec.

“Education alone won’t solve the problem of IP theft. Companies need data loss prevention technologies to monitor use of IP and flag employee behavior that puts confidential corporate data at risk. The time to protect your IP is before it walks out the door.”

To address this issue, Symantec says that organizations need to invest in monitoring solutions, to absolutely no one’s surprise. However, their other recommendation is where many information theft problems start – NDA enforcement.

In almost half of insider theft cases, Symantec said – citing findings from an earlier study – the organization had IP agreements with the employee, which indicates the existence of a policy alone – without employee comprehension and effective enforcement – is ineffective.

“Include stronger, more specific language in employment agreements and ensure exit interviews include focused conversations around employees’ continued responsibility to protect confidential information and return all company information and property (wherever stored). Make sure employees are aware that policy violations will be enforced and that theft of company information will have negative consequences to them and their future employer,” Symantec advised.

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