Cloud Security 101: 4 Data Loss Threats in Offboarding

Posted by Kevin Verde, Manager, Collaboration and Productivity Solutions

Aug 29, 2019


What happens when an employee leaves your organization — willingly or not? Without a proper offboarding plan, the aftermath could be disastrous. A recent report suggested that globally, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. 

In today’s complex digital workplace, an employee can have data stored in various locations. IT may have direct access to some of these, while others may be more difficult to detect, making offboarding an essential task to complete when an employee leaves your organization. It's a crucial way to avoid data breaches and intentional data loss. It's smart data-loss prevention.

Offboarding should ideally start the first day the employee begins working. With a rise in the gig economy and an influx of temporary workers, offboarding is everyone's responsibility, one that senior leaders should take very seriously. One wrong click can wreak havoc on your IT department and computer systems. Imagine if a former employee deleted an integral program — or erased private records when they left. Mitigating data breach threats with a solid plan is a must.

There are plenty of potential dangers when an employee or contractor exits your organization. Fortunately, there are also a multitude secure cloud solutions to prevent these and maintain cloud security and the integrity of your business data. Having a well thought out and detailed data loss prevention plan can alleviate many of your fears and make your IT infrastructure more secure.

1. Loss of company data

A data breach that is caused by a former employee, whether intentionally or accidentally is considered an insider threat. These types of malicious attacks can take your IT team at least 200 days to even detect — and even more time to fix and repair the damage from this business data loss.

Preventive measures toward avoiding data breaches include...

  • Create a policy about forwarding information. Make sure employees know the rules about proper sharing and forwarding of emails that may contain sensitive information.
  • Reset shared passwords. As soon as an employee departs, change any shared passwords to which the employee had access.
  • Revoke access. This means disabling employee access to all applications in mere seconds, not minutes or more.
  • Wipe devices clean of data. Remove all company data from an employee’s personal and company-issued devices.

2. Breached confidential information

In many industries, there are strict regulations and compliance requirements for properly offboarding an employee. IT has the responsibility to ensure that any sensitive information about the company or the employee remains confidential. Securing admin controls is the easiest way to do this.

Preventive measures:

  • Set up a least privilege model. Allow employees access only to accounts that are essential to perform their work.
  • Protect sensitive data. Develop and enforce policies that prevent sensitive information from being shared during offboarding.
  • Create detailed audit logs. Security certifications often require releasing audit logs after an employee leaves an organization.
  • Maintain regular backups. Routine backups for data are often required in many industries where information must be stored for several years.
  • Retain personal data on devices. Remove all company data from devices while maintaining any personal material.

3. Unknown licenses and fees

Stuck paying for unused licenses, storage or data after an employee departs your organization? Have your IT team put policies in place to notify them about which accounts or applications employees are using so they can be deactivated or reassigned. This is an often-overlooked and sometimes costly part of offboarding.

Preventive measures:

  • Limit suspended licenses. Regularly clean up suspended and unused licenses across the organization by keeping tabs on employee accounts.
  • Monitor employee credit card use. Determine which licenses or application purchases should be approved first by IT.
  • Reassign suspended licenses. After an employee has left, delete or reassign any licenses to another employee.

4. Wasted time

Work can stall or be delayed when an employee leaves and takes away valuable information. Ensuring proper communication beforehand is necessary to keep everything running smoothly. Have a succession plan in place that covers what to do if an employee leaves — before if happens.

Preventive measures:

  • Create processes. Encourage — and even mandate that employees develop and document processes around the work they do.
  • Streamline automation. Require that all IT employees use standard automations and scripts to easily pass from one employee to the next.
  • Transfer files efficiently. Have files sent to the correct person to avoid IT hassles if files are sent to the wrong person.
  • Forward appropriate email messages. Determine who should receive a former employee’s email — and for how long.
  • Manage calendars and schedules. Use caution when removing a former employee’s calendar so that it doesn’t leave unused space booked or delete recurring meetings that will continue.
  • Develop a cohesive offboarding model. Make IT’s job easier by having a structured and automated approach to offboarding.

Offboarding an employee can be a complex endeavor for even the most skilled HR or IT professional. Without a proper strategy in place, one misstep could cost upward of millions of dollars to properly restore or repair your IT infrastructure. Our partner, BetterCloud, can help you automate onboarding and offboarding.

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Kevin Verde, Manager, Collaboration and Productivity Solutions

As a Manager for Onix's Collaboration and Productivity Solutions, Kevin serves as a cloud evangelist by promoting better ways to work both in a brick-and-mortar office and remotely using cloud collaboration tools. He boasts a dual US/EU citizenship and spent four years of his career living and working in Madrid. He also is an advisor for House of Genius ( a non-profit think tank that supports entrepreneurship around the world.

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