Employees frequently steal (and use) confidential data when switching jobs

According to Symantec, businesses are increasingly at risk of insider IP theft, with staff moving, sharing and exposing sensitive data on a daily basis and, worse still, taking confidential information with them when they change employers.

A new survey conducted by The Ponemon Institute, and based on responses from 3,317 individuals in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, China and Korea, shows that half of employees admit to taking corporate data when they leave a job, with 40 percent saying they intend to use the data in their new position.

In a lot of cases, their actions aren’t intended as malicious, Symantec says. They often just don’t know it’s wrong to take data like this, and frequently fail to understand who owns the IP in the first place (many employees wrongly attribute ownership to the person who created it).

The survey also found that 56 percent of employees don’t think it’s a crime to use trade secrets taken from a previous employer and 62 percent think "it’s acceptable to transfer corporate data to their personal computers, tablets, smartphones and cloud file-sharing apps". Once the data is there, it’s rarely deleted.

It’s a big problem, because as Symantec explains, it "means valuable intelligence is falling into the hands of competitors. Ultimately, this puts everyone at risk -- the employee who takes the IP, the organization that invested in it and the new employer who unwittingly receives it. Everyone can be held accountable, and no one wins".

Based on the survey results Symantec recommends organizations take action in three ways -- educate their employees about IP theft, enforce non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and monitor inappropriate access and use of IP (something which is often easier said than done).

Symantec’s complete report, What’s Yours Is Mine: How Employees are Putting Your Intellectual Property at Risk, is available for download.

Photo Credit:  BruceParrott /Shutterstock

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