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What should be part of an employee termination checklist?

Many workers face being fired due to the global economic crisis. What are the best ways to keep employees from taking sensitive business data with them when they go?

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Letting go of someone with high IT privileges could come back to haunt you, especially in a time when redundancies are likely to occur in every sector.

Making any number of redundancies is bound to be difficult, and getting everything right can be a mammoth task. There will be unions to appease, employment legislation to grapple with, tough decisions to be made -- and in the minefield of sensitive HR processes, retrieving a Blackberry from an ex-employee may be the least of your worries.

But being complacent could be a real mistake. Over the past few years, businesses have furnished their employees with ever more sophisticated technology, allowing them to do almost anything when away from the office, from accessing their emails to connecting to the most sensitive parts of the internal network. Vast numbers of workers have been given their own laptops to facilitate remote and flexible working.

Such availability means that any disgruntled employee has a better chance of stealing data or even hacking into your company network. Redundant IT administrators, who may have the technical knowledge and the system privileges to cause some serious damage, are by far the most dangerous -- particularly when you consider that a recent survey by Cyber-Ark Software Ltd. revealed that 88% of the 300 surveyed IT professionals would steal valuable and sensitive company information if they were fired tomorrow. And obviously, disgruntled ex-employees are by far the most likely people to seek revenge against the company that spurned them.

Possibly the most worrying aspect for businesses is this: When redundancies are in the pipeline, there is usually a statutory 'at risk' notification for the employee before their role is made redundant.

Developing an employee termination checklist
What can you do to minimise the damage?

  • First, work closely with your HR department. You need to know about potential redundancies early, so that you can prepare an action plan. Then, if you know who is deemed 'at risk' of redundancy, you might consider implementing a raised level of logging of their activity. File transfer locally would be worrying, so free monitoring tools like 'filemon' could be helpful, but set the filters up carefully to avoid overload!
  • Sent emails will be of great interest, particularly of encrypted or password-protected files. Raise your quarantine levels, and don't just release items on a 'say so' from the member of staff.
  • Consider a higher frequency of backup for email -- how often do you find that departed staff have deleted the contents of their mailbox?
  • Review logging on your applications, particularly those with sensitive data such as your CRM and HR systems.
  • Finally, make sure you have a robust process for closing accounts and recovering equipment allocated to staff members.

    However, if the person being let go is a system administrator with high levels of IT privileges and a seething resentment for management, how can you ensure that your soon to be ex-employee won't attempt some risky business of his/her own? Answer: you probably can't.

  • This was first published in March 2009

     

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