The massive wave of layoffs in 2024 brings a cybersecurity threat that most business owners aren’t focusing on – offboarding employees. Even major brands with top-tier cybersecurity systems, processes, and procedures in place often fail to adequately protect themselves from insider threats. This August marks a 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.

And, of course, the issue is expected to get worse. According to NerdWallet, as of May 24, 2024, 298 US-based tech companies have laid off 84,600 workers and counting. This includes major layoffs at big companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, as well as smaller tech startups. In total, around 257,254 jobs were eliminated in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

Whether or not you’ll need to downsize your team this year, having a proper offboarding process in place is essential to every business, big or small, because it’s more than a routine administrative task – it’s a critical security precaution. Failing to revoke access for former employees can lead to serious business and legal implications later.

Some of those issues include:

Theft of Intellectual Property: Employees can take your company’s files, client data, and confidential information stored on personal devices, as well as retain access to cloud-based applications like social media sites and file-sharing platforms (e.g., Dropbox or OneDrive) that your IT department might overlook. 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. Often, this information is sold to competitors, used by them when hired by the competition, or utilized by former employees to start competing businesses.

Compliance Violations: Failing to revoke access privileges and remove employees from authorized user lists can register you as noncompliant in heavily regulated industries. This simple mistake can result in large fines, hefty penalties, and, in some cases, legal consequences.

Data Deletion: If an employee feels unfairly laid-off and retains access to their accounts, they could easily delete all their e-mails and any critical files they can access. If that data isn’t backed up, it will be lost forever.

For those thinking, “I’ll sue them!” Even if you win, the legal costs, time wasted on the lawsuit and data recovery, plus the aggravation and distraction of dealing with it all, often outweigh the potential compensation.

Data Breach: This could be the most terrifying scenario. Unhappy employees who feel wronged can cause a data breach, making you the star of the next devastating data breach headline and leading to a costly lawsuit. It could be as simple as 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 curb these risks? Chances are you don’t. A 2024 study by Wing revealed that one out of five organizations has indications that some former users were not properly offboarded, and those are the organizations astute enough to detect it.

How Do You Properly Offboard an Employee?

Implement the Principle of Least Privilege: Successful offboarding starts with proper onboarding. New employees should only be given access to the files and programs they need to do their jobs. This should be meticulously documented to make offboarding easier.

Leverage Automation: Your IT team can use automation to streamline the process of revoking access to multiple software applications simultaneously, saving time and resources while reducing the likelihood of manual errors.

Implement Continuous Monitoring: You can implement software that tracks user activity on the company network. This can help identify suspicious behavior by unauthorized users and determine if a former employee retains access to private accounts.

These are just a few ways your IT team can help improve your offboarding process to make it more efficient and secure. Insider threats can be devastating, and if you think this can’t happen to you, think again. You have to be proactive in protecting your organization.

Insider threats can be devastating, and if you think this can’t happen to you, think again. You have to be proactive in protecting 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 843-418-4792 or to book now.