We’ve said this frequently, and we’ll say it again. One of the biggest security weaknesses that businesses face are their own employees. This isn’t pleasant, but it’s a truth that we have to face. Humans are a weak link in our cybersecurity defenses. When we make mistakes – forgetting to change a default password or clicking on a link we shouldn’t – we open the door for attackers.
But there’s another way that your people can threaten your organization. It’s from within: disgruntled or dissatisfied former employees. These are people who are no longer with your business but may still have access to your network and your accounts. Plus, they know how you operate.
This is a real fear, and one you should take seriously. 24% of SMBs are more concerned that attacks will come from ex-employees than from hacktivist groups, competitors, or state-sponsored hackers (Source: AppRiver). A recent survey shows that 20% of organizations have already experienced data breaches by ex-employees (Source: OneLogin).
How can you reduce this threat? Here are some steps to help prevent former employees from attacking your business or breaching your data.
Remove former employees’ access immediately
Make sure that your employee offboarding procedures include steps for removing all of a former employee’s access to your network and company accounts. Even though this process can be time-consuming, but it’s critical.
Your IT staff or support firm should be notified immediately that an employee is leaving. There should be no confusion about who is responsible for revoking access and permissions, changing login information, and removing users from accounts.
Change your passwords
On top of revoking their access, make sure that you’ve changed the passwords for all systems and accounts that an employee had access to. This includes changing administrative passwords for servers and networks. Notify third-party services (e.g. email or customer support, vendors and partners, etc.) to update passwords as well.
Recognize the signs of a disgruntled employee
You should try to identify problematic ex-employees early on. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center has a “Combating the Insider Threat” resource. It can help you learn the characteristics of employees who are at risk of becoming a threat.
If you can recognize the behavioral indicators of a problematic employee, you are ahead of the game in knowing how to deal with the situation in a safer way.
You should begin with preventative measures. Make it clear to new employees what your “acceptable use” policy is for company information, devices, and systems. When an employee departs, ensure they are clearly informed about the legal consequences of trying to access the company’s systems or take sensitive or proprietary data with them. Make sure they sign statements that acknowledge they’ve been informed of these policies.
Is that all?
There’s more you can (and should) do to protect your organization from insider threats. These recommendations should be used on top of existing security defenses, like data protection and backup solutions, firewalls, network monitoring, and more.