Almost 40% of South Africans take corporate information with them when they move jobs, a recent survey conducted by Symantec and Moneyweb showed.
This is despite the fact that 50% of participants were aware that the companies they work for had policies in place barring this kind of behaviour.
Gordon Love, regional director for Africa at Symantec believes that the risk facing organisations from data loss is greater now because of the difficult economic conditions.
“When companies are forced to cut staff numbers there can be a level of resentment among affected staff. There is also the possibility that employees feel a level of entitlement to retain some of the information that they had a hand in creating, either as the foundation of a business they intend to start themselves or to improve their value to a future employer,” he comments.
Love adds that the level of awareness around this kind of theft is relatively low, and this creates a challenge for companies to police the actions of employees when they leave the organisation. Part of the problem exposed by the survey is that the human resources practitioners are not sufficiently versed in the issues surrounding data security and that even when an exit interview is performed the employee is not quizzed on what documents they are taking with them. Even when former employees are asked about what information they have taken with them the level of this questioning is superficial.
The results of the South African survey are, however, better than those from a similar survey conducted in the US earlier this year. In the US survey 59% of employees admitted to taking data from former employers, many of which stole data intentionally to secure future employment.
“In many situations the employees concerned are not aware that they are taking confidential information and in essence stealing from their employer. In other situations feelings of resentment towards a former employer may spur them on to take as much information as possible,” Love says.
“It is critical that not only are employees properly educated about what they can and can’t take with them when they leave, but also that those employees that are leaving are properly screened to keep the theft of intellectual information to a minimum,” he says.