Well over half of employees who left their jobs during 2008 walked out the door having stolen confidential company information – and many of them still had access to the organisation's computer systems after they left.
These are some of the findings of a survey of employees who left in 2008 by Symantec and the Ponemon, in which 59% of ex-employees admit to stealing confidential company information, such as customer contact lists.
The results also show that if respondents' companies had implemented better data loss prevention policies and technologies, many of those instances of data theft could have been prevented.
Of respondents who admitted to taking company data, 61% also reported having an unfavorable view of their former employer. The most commonly identified kinds of records taken included e-mail lists, employee records, customer information including contact lists, and non-financial information.
Although respondents were spread across many different industries, the highest percentage of survey responses came from the financial services industry.
Additional survey findings include:
* 53% of respondents downloaded information on to a CD or DVD, 42% on to a USB drive and 38% sent attachments to a personal e-mail account;
* 79% of respondents took data without an employer's permission;
* 82% of respondents said their employers did not perform an audit or review of paper or electronic documents before the respondent left his/her job; and
* 24% of respondents had access to their employer's computer system or network after their departure from the company.
"Data loss during downsising is preventable," says Errol Rhoden, regional specialist manager for IRM at Symantec. "We can prevent employees from emailing sensitive content to personal Webmail accounts or downloading it onto USB drives.
"Companies need to implement data loss prevention technologies so they know exactly where sensitive data resides, how it is being used, and prevent it from being copied, downloaded or sent outside the company."
Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, comments: "The survey's findings should sound the alarm across all industries: your sensitive data is walking out the door with your employees. Even if layoffs are not imminent, companies need to be more aware of who has access to sensitive business information.
"Our research suggests that a great deal of data loss is preventable through the use of clear policies, better communication with employees, and adequate controls on data access."