Security Risks of Remote Employee Offboarding

BY IT GLUE | August 24, 2021

If you are in IT, handling offboarding for employees leaving the company is always a tricky job. With the sheer number of security risks it presents, you need to make sure you leave no stone unturned. From revoking access permissions to ensuring complete data security, there are a myriad of tasks that just cannot be overlooked. With remote working environments becoming the norm in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of offboarding employees has become even more complicated.

There is a possibility that a great deal of your employees’ access may be unknown to your IT department. This access could be hosted publicly and could present a data security risk to your company. To overcome this challenge, you need to understand the risks inherent in today’s remote offboarding process and identify ways to mitigate them.

We’ll explore this in detail in this blog, but before that, check out this employee offboarding checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the bases before an employee leaves the company.

Potential Security Risks

Did you know that 88% of IT workers stated they would take sensitive company information with them if they were fired from their jobs? Data theft is one of the common consequences of poor offboarding. However, this is just one of the many possible security risks associated with poor offboarding. Here’s a list of common security issues that could arise when an employee leaves an organization.

  • Data Loss: This is the most serious and most obvious issue you could encounter. There have been multiple data security incidents worldwide attributable to disgruntled employees. Besides stealing data, disgruntled employees could also delete or damage data before leaving. Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report estimated that 40% of employees who have stolen company data won’t hesitate to use it in their next jobs. Losing critical information to a competitor could make you lose your competitive edge.
  • Compliance Violations: When former employees leak your confidential information online, it could lead to compliance violations. Regulatory compliance laws have strict rules regarding data security, especially sensitive information regarding a company’s customers. When this data is leaked, it is likely to attract heavy fines and penalties. For instance, GDPR may levy fines up to 4% of your global turnover.
  • Loss of Reputation: When a company is faced with a data breach or compliance violation, it results in loss of reputation. Customers might feel that their personal data is not properly protected by the company and may defect to competitors. There is also a greater possibility of a loss of future business. A simple offboarding process, when done poorly, can lead to major consequences.
  • Wasteful Spending on Unused Licenses: While this may not be as serious as data loss, it could also result in massive financial losses if overlooked for a considerably long time. Employees often require a variety of software to do their jobs. When unused licenses are kept active even after an employee leaves the company, they accumulate over time and ultimately lead to financial loss.
  • Productivity Loss: Employees who leave an organization take their knowledge with them. If your critical data is not properly documented, it could result in productivity loss. Also, there is a huge possibility of miscommunication when the information is not clear, which then leads to inefficient workflows.

How to Mitigate These Risks

While security threats are inevitable in today’s scenario, mitigating them is well within our hands. This can be done simply by implementing a few steps in your offboarding process. Here are a few strategies you can implement to avoid most security risks.

Revoke Access & Reset Passwords During the Offboarding

The first major step you need to take is to revoke the employee’s access to all critical files, applications and services. Before you revoke access, make sure you have made backup copies of the files stored in the employee’s computer and emails. If the employee has access to any SaaS applications in your network, you need to revoke the access or disable the account. Passwords shared for various services need to be reset instantly. Preventing external access following an employee’s exit is a critical part of your onboarding process.

Move Data to Centralized Cloud Applications

By moving critical data to a centralized cloud storage application, you can restrict access only to key people in your organization. You can set permissions accordingly and make sure no one outside the company can view the data by any means.

Conduct an Exit Interview

Conducting an IT exit interview for all departing employees is a must. This can help identify red flags in the employee’s demeanor that can prevent trouble in the future. If identified, the entire offboarding process and data access should be double-checked. You can also quiz the employee about various things like account access, critical data, company credit card, etc.

Have Documented Processes

Your offboarding process cannot be random and arbitrary. Make sure you have documented processes at every step and enact them during the offboarding process. This brings a much-needed structure to your offboarding process. When you have documented steps, you won’t miss out on anything that may cause security issues. This goes a long way towards mitigating various threats that may arise out of this process.

To Sum Up

A smooth exit is critical to ensure the security of your IT infrastructure. When you have documented the entire process, it makes offboarding easy and secure. It also ensures that your other operations are not disrupted by the exit of an employee.

To know how IT Glue can help with employee offboarding, request a free demo today!

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