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Whose data is it anyway?

By Tony Neate on 02 Oct, 2006

CD-ROMs padlocked Over the weekend, I was having dinner with an old friend. He told me a horror story that happened in his company many years ago. A junior saleswoman was looking for a new job and got an interview at a competitor. She asked her workmate - a loyal employee of long standing - if she should "take all our customer data to the interview or wait until she had got the new job before handing it over." Needless to say, she was sacked later that day. This came back to me when I read a survey from Prefix IT, a company that makes software that tries to stop this kind of data theft. The report found that:

  • 30% of workers agree that sales leads/business contacts are rightfully their property
  • 65% of workers would consider taking leads/business contacts when leaving a job
  • 45% of SME employees would download data to help them in a new job
  • 49% of 16-24 year olds do not equate workplace theft as ‘stealing’
  • 56% say that companies expect things to ‘go walkabout’
  • 85% are unaware of company policy regarding what cannot be removed from the office
  • 86% of employees own a device capable of storing data downloaded from a USB port

Normally, I don't put much stock in surveys from vendors but this one rang true. It's not so much that employees are dishonest, they are just confused about what's right and wrong. Software protection, training and policies are required to draw the line for them. Get Safe Online has extensive advice for small businesses, including: how to prevent data theft, training staff, staff policies and controlling access to key data.