Massive Layoffs in 2024 Create a Serious Threat to Your Cybersecurity

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The massive wave of layoffs in 2024 has introduced a significant cybersecurity threat that many business owners are overlooking: the offboarding of employees. Even prominent brands, which one would expect to have state-of-the-art cybersecurity systems, processes, and procedures, often fail to protect themselves adequately from insider threats. This issue was starkly highlighted last August, marking a year since two disgruntled Tesla employees went rogue after being let go, exposing the personal information—including names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers—of over 75,000 people, including employees.

The situation is expected to deteriorate further. According to NerdWallet, as of May 24, 2024, 298 U.S.-based tech companies have laid off 84,600 workers, with numbers continuing to rise. This includes major layoffs at significant corporations like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, as well as smaller tech startups. In total, approximately 257,254 jobs were eliminated in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

Whether or not you plan to downsize your team this year, having a proper offboarding process in place is crucial for every business, regardless of size. Offboarding is more than a routine administrative task; it is a critical security precaution. Failing to revoke access for former employees can lead to serious business and legal implications down the road.

The Dangers of Inadequate Offboarding

Several issues can arise from failing to properly offboard employees:

Theft of Intellectual Property

Former employees can abscond with your company’s files, client data, and confidential information stored on personal devices. They may also retain access to cloud-based applications, such as social media sites and file-sharing platforms like Dropbox or OneDrive, that your IT department might overlook or forget to update passwords for.

A study by Osterman Research revealed that 69% of businesses experience data loss due to employee turnover, and 87% of employees who leave take data with them. Often, the valuable information you painstakingly gathered is sold to competitors, used by them when they are hired by the competition, or utilized by the former employee to start a competing business. Any way you slice it, it is detrimental to your company.

Compliance Violations

Failing to revoke access privileges and remove employees from authorized user lists can result in noncompliance with regulations, particularly in heavily regulated industries. This seemingly simple mistake can lead to substantial fines, hefty penalties, and, in some cases, legal consequences.

Data Deletion

If an employee feels they were unfairly dismissed and retains access to their accounts, they could delete all their emails and any critical files they can access. Without proper backups, this data loss can be catastrophic.

For those thinking, “I’ll sue them!”—consider this: Even if you do sue and win, the legal costs, time wasted on the lawsuit, and efforts to recover the data, not to mention the aggravation and distraction, often outweigh any potential damages you might be awarded.

Data Breach

Perhaps the most terrifying scenario is a data breach. Disgruntled employees who feel wronged can make your company the next headline in a devastating data breach scandal, leading to costly lawsuits. It only takes one click to download, expose, or modify your clients’ or employees’ private information, financial records, or trade secrets.

The Importance of an Airtight Offboarding Process

Do you have an airtight offboarding process to mitigate these risks? Many companies do not. A 2024 study by Wing revealed that one out of five organizations has indications that some former users were not properly offboarded, and these are just the ones astute enough to detect it.

Steps for Proper Offboarding

Here are some crucial steps to ensure a secure and efficient offboarding process:

Implement the Principle of Least Privilege

Successful offboarding starts with proper onboarding. New employees should only be given access to the files and programs necessary for their job roles. This should be meticulously documented to simplify the offboarding process when the time comes.

Leverage Automation

Your IT team can utilize automation to streamline the revocation of access to multiple software applications simultaneously. This approach saves time and resources while reducing the likelihood of manual errors.

Implement Continuous Monitoring

Software that tracks user activities on the company network can help you identify suspicious behavior by unauthorized users. This can be crucial in determining if a former employee retains access to private accounts.

These are just a few ways your IT team can help improve your offboarding process to make it more efficient and secure. Insider threats can be devastating, and underestimating them can have dire consequences. Proactively protecting your organization is imperative.

To discover if any gaps in your offboarding process expose you to theft or data breaches, our team offers a free, in-depth risk assessment. Contact us at 717-914-0102 or click here to book now. Don’t wait until it’s too late—ensure your business is safeguarded against the growing threat of insider attacks.

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