A down economy increases threat of data walking out the door

Moving into 2009, the number of layoffs and unemployed has multiplied as a result of the falling economy. Corporate data is at risk now more than ever and companies need to be sure they have reliable protection in place.

As companies are forced to make layoffs, disgruntled employees may act maliciously and take sensitive company data with them as they leave. Out-of-work employees worried about finding a position in a bleak job market may also act out of desperation and steal confidential company information to get a leg up on the competition for hard-to-find jobs. It is also possible that companies hiring are accepting or even requesting internal data of their competitors as part of the hiring process.

Employees can confiscate sensitive company data by saving it to a memory stick, e-mailing it to a personal account, or even walking out with a laptop or BlackBerry. Companies need to be protected in all instances to ensure their information doesn't walk out the door.

It's 5 p.m. Do you know where your data is?

The first step to ensure that corporate data is protected from insider threat is to make sure laptops are encrypted. Not encrypting employee machines is a potentially fatal mistake, but it is not the only step to protection. Companies need to make sure the encryption can be revoked when an employee leaves the company. This requires having an encryption policy that is centrally managed by IT. This type of policy will keep data protected while enabling IT to lock it from unauthorized employee access at any time. (Listen to a podcast about protecting against insider threats in a down economy.)

The next step is ensuring employees cannot transfer information to a USB, MP3 player or other portable device. Implementing device control allows IT to monitor and restrict data copied to removable storage devices to keep it from leaving company control. Having control over devices on the network also allows IT to understand how internal compliance is working and block any attempts to violate IT policy.

The final step to protecting data on your network is to ensure employees cannot send information outside to personal email accounts or through instant messaging. Putting network data loss prevention (DLP) in place allows IT to identify, monitor and protect endpoint and network actions in order to prevent the unauthorized use and transmission of confidential company information.

In a down economy the risk of data loss increases. Now, more than ever, companies need to ensure the integrity of their data. Putting significant protection in place should be a first priority in 2009 to ensure data theft is not a risk. Encrypting laptops with flexible encryption controls, implementing device control and putting a data loss prevention system in place will cover all bases and ensure employees don't have any way to walk out the door with company data.

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