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Massive Layoffs In 2024 Create A Serious Threat To Your Cybersecurity

The massive wave of layoffs in 2024 has introduced a cybersecurity threat that many business owners are overlooking: the offboarding of employees. Even well-known brands, which you might expect to have robust cybersecurity systems, processes, and procedures, often fail to adequately protect themselves from insider threats. This August marks one year since two disgruntled Tesla employees, after being let go, exposed the personal information—including names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers—of over 75,000 people, including employees.

The issue is expected to worsen. According to NerdWallet, as of May 24, 2024, 298 U.S.-based tech companies have laid off 84,600 workers, and the number is still rising. 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 eliminated in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

Whether or not you anticipate downsizing your team this year, having a proper offboarding process is essential for every business, big or small. It 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.

Some of these issues include:

- 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 like social media sites and file-sharing platforms (such as Dropbox or OneDrive) that your IT department might overlook or forget to change 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. This information is often sold to competitors, used by them when they join rival companies, or leveraged by the former employee to become a competitor themselves. Any way you look at it, it harms 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 simple oversight can lead to large fines, hefty penalties, and, in some cases, legal consequences.

- Data Deletion: If a former employee feels unfairly laid off and retains access to their accounts, they could easily delete all their emails and any critical files they can access. If that data isn't backed up, you could lose everything.

For those thinking, "I'll sue them!"—while that might be justified, the hard reality is that the legal costs, time wasted on the lawsuit and data recovery, and the aggravation and distraction of dealing with it all are often greater than any damages you might be awarded if you win the lawsuit.

- Data Breach: This could be the most terrifying risk of all. Unhappy employees who feel wronged can make your business the subject of the next devastating data breach headline, potentially incurring a costly lawsuit as well. It could be as simple as making one click to download, expose, or modify your clients' or employees' private information, financial records, or trade secrets.

Do you have an airtight 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 of their former users were not properly offboarded, and these are the organizations astute enough to detect it.

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How do you effectively offboard a client?

● Apply the Principle of Least Privilege - Effective offboarding begins with thorough onboarding. Employees should be granted access only to the files and programs necessary for their roles. This access should be carefully documented to facilitate smoother offboarding.

● 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 tracks user activities on the company network. This can help you detect suspicious behavior from unauthorized users and determine if a former employee still has access to private 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 assuming it won't happen to you is a mistake. Proactive measures are essential to safeguarding 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, in-depth risk assessment to help you resolve it. Call us at 707-689-3999 or click here to book now.

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