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Security Best Practices When an Employee Leaves

Security Best Practices When an Employee Leaves


Employee departure is a natural part of the business cycle, yet it poses a significant risk if not managed properly.

When an employee leaves, they take with them intimate knowledge of your company’s operations and, potentially, access to its most sensitive information.

In fact, research shows that 15 percent of companies found 1,000,000+ files open to every employee. This transition period is critical for ensuring that your company’s data remains secure and that you are not leaving any doors open for potential security breaches.

Chris Power, CEO of Power Consulting says, “The employee offboarding demands meticulous attention to ensure that the organization’s data integrity remains uncompromised.” 

In this blog, we will explore 12 essential data protection strategies to implement when an employee exits, ensuring your company’s confidential information remains secure and shielded from potential vulnerabilities.


Best Practices to Keep Your Company Data Secure When Employees Leave

1. Revoke Access to Sensitive Data

When an employee is on their way out, it’s crucial to immediately cut off their access to sensitive information. This involves disabling their logins to internal systems, revoking access to databases, and ensuring they can no longer access network resources.

It’s not just about preventing malicious intent; it’s also about adhering to a standard protocol that safeguards your company’s data integrity and reduces the risk of accidental breaches.

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2. Update Passwords and Credentials

After employees leave, updating passwords and credentials they have access to is non-negotiable. This step goes beyond just changing passwords; it involves a thorough audit to ensure that any backdoor access or unknown authentication methods are identified and modified.

Doing this reinforces the security perimeter, making it tougher for any potential intruders to gain unauthorized access to your company’s critical systems and data.


3. Review and Adjust File Sharing Permissions

Employees often have access to shared files and resources crucial to their job roles. When they leave, it’s essential to audit these permissions and make necessary adjustments. This means ensuring they no longer have access to shared drives, cloud storage, or other collaborative platforms.

Adjusting these permissions helps prevent unintentional access or potential data leakage, maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of your company’s information.


4. Ensure Return of Physical and Digital Assets

Departing employees must return all company-owned assets, including hardware like laptops and mobile devices, and digital assets such as files and software licenses.

This process secures physical assets and ensures that data stored on these devices is retrieved and remains under company control. It’s a critical step in preventing data loss and securing the intellectual property that might reside on these devices.


5. Disable Email Account

Disabling the departing employee’s email account is critical to prevent unauthorized access and ensure that sensitive communications remain confidential.

However, setting up email forwarding is also important to ensure that important messages are not missed and business continuity is maintained. Additionally, this process helps archive the employee’s communications for future reference or legal compliance.


6. Block Shared Accounts

If the departing employee had access to shared accounts, it’s vital to change the credentials and ensure that these accounts are no longer accessible to them.

Shared accounts, especially those used for critical services or systems, can pose a significant security risk if not managed properly. Blocking access and updating the login details is essential to maintain the security of these shared resources.


7. Audit Company Devices

Conduct a thorough audit of all company devices to which the departing employee had access. This includes checking for unauthorized software, ensuring that data is not stored locally on the device, and verifying that all company information is accounted for and secure.

This step is crucial in mitigating risks associated with data theft, loss, or unauthorized access post-employment.


8. Implement Data Encryption

Data encryption should be a standard practice, especially for sensitive company information.

Encrypting all critical data, both at rest and in transit, adds an extra layer of security. This makes it significantly more challenging for unauthorized individuals to access or misuse the data, providing a robust defense against potential data breaches.


9. Monitor for Suspicious Activity

After an employee leaves, monitoring your systems for any unusual or suspicious activity is crucial. This proactive approach helps in quickly identifying and addressing potential security threats or breaches.

By monitoring system access logs, network traffic, and user activities, you can detect anomalies that may indicate unauthorized access or malicious intent.


10. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds another additional layer of security, requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to access a resource.

MFA is essential in protecting against unauthorized access, particularly when passwords might have been compromised. By requiring additional verification, you significantly reduce the risk of security breaches.


11. Conduct Exit Interview

An exit interview is a crucial step in the offboarding process. It allows you to discuss the return of company property, remind the departing employee of their confidentiality obligations, and address any final questions or concerns.

This meeting also provides an opportunity to gain insights into potential security weaknesses or areas for improvement in your organization’s data protection strategies.

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12. Train New Onboard on Security Best Practices

Training new onboard on security best practices is crucial in maintaining a robust security posture. They should be made aware of the company’s policies regarding data protection, access controls, and response strategies in the event of a security incident.

This education ensures that they understand the importance of data security and are equipped to contribute to safeguarding the organization’s assets.


Enhancing Data Security Through Employee Lifecycle Management

Lifecycle Stage Data Security Enhancements
Onboarding Integrate data security training and clear policy communication from day one to instill a culture of security awareness.
Active Employment Regularly update employees on new data security protocols and conduct periodic security assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities.
Transition Period Initiate a detailed transition plan for employees who are leaving, which includes a comprehensive review of their access to sensitive information and a strategy for transferring their responsibilities.
Offboarding Implement a structured offboarding process that includes deactivating access rights, retrieving company assets, and conducting exit interviews focused on security awareness.
Post-Employment Maintain a protocol for monitoring potential security threats related to former employees and update emergency response plans to include potential post-employment risks.


Strengthen Security with Power Consulting

An employee’s departure is a critical moment for reinforcing your company’s data security. Neglecting this transition can lead to significant vulnerabilities, including the potential for data breaches that can compromise personal information and intellectual property.

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Implementing these data protection best practices ensures a secure transition and safeguards your company’s valuable information. Power Consulting can also provide automation of these offboarding processes.  Automated security offboarding is the most accurate and efficient way to manage this process, but takes significant preparation.

As a leading managed services and cybersecurity company, Power Consulting is dedicated to helping businesses like yours maintain robust security measures, ensuring that your data remains secure despite employee turnover.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and take a proactive step towards securing your company’s future.