Massive Layoffs In 2024 Create A Serious Threat To Your Cybersecurity

The significant wave of layoffs in 2024 has introduced a cybersecurity threat that many business owners are overlooking: the offboarding process for employees. Even prominent brands, which you would expect to have robust cybersecurity measures, often fail to adequately protect themselves from insider threats. Notably, this August marks a year since two disgruntled Tesla employees, after being terminated, exposed the personal information—including names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers—of over 75,000 individuals, including employees.

This issue is anticipated to worsen. According to NerdWallet, as of May 24, 2024, 298 US-based tech companies have laid off 84,600 workers and counting. This includes significant layoffs at major companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, as well as smaller tech startups. In total, approximately 257,254 jobs were cut in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

Regardless of whether you plan to downsize your team this year, having a proper offboarding process is crucial for every business, big or small. It's more than just a routine administrative task; it's a critical security measure. Failing to revoke access for former employees can lead to serious business and legal consequences.

Some potential issues include:

- Theft of Intellectual Property: Employees can abscond with your company's files, client data, and confidential information stored on personal devices, and may retain access to cloud-based applications like social media and file-sharing sites (e.g., Dropbox, OneDrive) that your IT department may overlook or forget to update passwords for. A study by Osterman Research found that 69% of businesses experience data loss due to employee turnover, and 87% of departing employees take data with them. This information is often sold to competitors, used by them when hired by a competitor, or leveraged by former employees to start competing businesses. Any way you look at it, it hurts your business.

- Compliance Violations: Failing to revoke access privileges and remove employees from authorized user lists can result in noncompliance in heavily regulated industries. This oversight can lead to substantial fines, hefty penalties, and, in some cases, legal repercussions.

- Data Deletion: If an employee feels they were unfairly laid off and retains access to their accounts, they could easily delete all their emails and any critical files they can access. Without proper backups, this data could be lost forever.

- Data Breach: This is perhaps the most alarming threat. Disgruntled employees who feel wronged can orchestrate a devastating data breach, leading to costly lawsuits. With a simple click, they could download, expose, or modify your clients' or employees' private information, financial records, or trade secrets.

Do you have a foolproof offboarding process to mitigate these risks? Chances are, you don't. A 2024 study by Wing revealed that one in five organizations has indications that some former users were not properly offboarded, and these are just the organizations astute enough to detect such lapses.

How should you properly offboard a client?

  • Apply the Principle of Least Privilege - Effective offboarding begins with thorough onboarding. Ensure that new employees are granted access only to the files and programs necessary for their roles. Document these permissions meticulously to simplify the offboarding process.
  • Utilize Automation - Your IT team can employ automation to revoke access to multiple software applications simultaneously. This approach saves time and resources while minimizing the risk of manual errors.
  • Implement Continuous Monitoring - Deploy software that monitors user activities within the company network. This helps identify suspicious behavior by unauthorized users and ensures that former employees do not retain access to sensitive accounts.

These are just a few strategies your IT team can use to enhance your offboarding process, making it more efficient and secure.

Insider threats can be catastrophic, and thinking it won't happen to you is a mistake. Proactively protect your organization.

To find out if any gaps in your offboarding process expose you to theft or a data breach, our team will do a free consult to help you plan your next step with IT support. Call us at 954-327-1001 or click here to book now.

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