You can’t take it with you: stop data exfiltration now

Amid reports that the United States is facing its worst labor shortage in 50 years, here is this shock from Microsoft’s 2021 Labor Trend Index: 40% of workers globally plan to leave their employer this year. A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone in search of more money, flexibility and happiness after doing some soul-searching during shutdowns, according to NPR.

The trend is expected to cause heartburn for executives of companies with intellectual property to protect, especially in light of recent stories of data and trade secret theft by insiders in places like Tesla, Apple. , the Federal Reserve, General Electric and Abbott Labs.

Risks of exposure of sensitive data due to deliberate or accidental employee action increase. Forrester Research expects the number of insider-related data exposure incidents to represent 33% of all breaches this year. There is a term for this – data exfiltration – which refers to the unauthorized transfer of data.

COVID Magnifier

The rapid transfer of large amounts of data from inside company walls to home PCs, Dropbox accounts, and Google Drives over the past 15 months has amplified the problem. A report by insider risk detection firm Code42 late last year found that employees were 85% more likely to disclose files during shutdowns than before the pandemic.

With a record number of people looking for new opportunities at the moment and statistics showing that most remain in the same industry, the risk of trade secret disclosure is particularly high. Yet few companies make a serious effort to monitor or even ask questions about the data that outgoing employees take with them. That’s even if 45% of employees download, save, send or appropriate work-related documents before quitting their jobs, according to a survey by security firm Tessian.

“IT groups are working hard to get your badge and laptop back, but no one is verifying the data,” said Joe Payne, CEO of Code42.

The problem of exfiltration is probably much bigger than the numbers indicate. “Our research shows that 63% of people admit to using data from their last job to use it in their current job, but our experience shows it’s closer to 90%,” Payne said.

Employees surveyed by Tessian admitted that they are less likely to follow secure data practices when working from home. “Additionally, employees believe they can adopt riskier cybersecurity behaviors when working remotely, one of the main reasons being that they feel they are not being monitored by their IT teams.” said Henry Trevelyan Thomas, vice president of customer success. in Tessian.

The risks have increased further in recent years with the explosion of cloud-based collaboration tools. “All of the security tools we’ve used historically have been designed to block access. It goes against what CIOs want to do today, which is to share, ”Payne said.

Innocent intentions

The good news is that data exfiltration is usually unintentional, Thomas said. But intention matters less than results. If confidential data ends up in the hands of a competitor, it can cause trouble for an employee.

It’s not just technical documents and engineering plans that create risks. If you work in human resources and inadvertently disclose a spreadsheet with employee salary information to a competitor, your company’s ability to recruit and retain people could be compromised. All customer data in your account should also remain there. If information that a client gave you while working for a company comes back to them from a competitor, you could be charged with theft of trade secrets.

Education is part of the solution. Employees should know that proprietary information can include things like customer records, sales forecasts, software macros, and a host of other assets. “We’re finding that a lot of young people, in particular, think they own the source code they wrote on the job or that it’s okay to use Dropbox when it’s not the corporate standard.” , Code42’s Payne said. Sharing should be encouraged, but using only the platforms and processes supported by the business.

Technology can help. Tessian’s Human Layer Security platform uses machine learning to understand human behavior and relationships so that it can then detect activities that may pose a risk of data exfiltration. It alerts employees who appear to be on the verge of data exfiltration so they can reconsider their decision before IT gets involved. Haystax takes a similar approach from a network telemetry perspective.

Code42 encompasses the tools people already use both on-premises and in the cloud to monitor risky behaviors such as consumer cloud storage usage or email services and large data transfers. It then alerts administrators to activities that require investigation.

The use of anti-exfiltration technology tends to reinforce good practice, said Payne of Code42. “We are seeing that a year after customers put our technology in place, the number of people taking internal data drops from 90% to less than 5%,” he said.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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