Increasingly a business’ most important assets are digital in nature. Client databases, business plans, source code and other intellectual property often represent a significant portion of a business’ value. Technology such as cloud-storage and sharing applications make it simple for such assets to be shared, sent, manipulated, downloaded, transferred, accessed or deleted in a few moments. Theft of data due to breaches and backdoor access by sophisticated hackers makes the news; however, the most common form of theft of digital assets occurs by a business’ employees. There are a number of reasons why an employee may steal such assets from being disgruntled, to helping a competitor to becoming a competitor themselves. Small businesses are more likely to be targeted because they have less sophisticated systems of protection.
So how does a small business protect itself from such theft? The best way is to implement some common sense best practices to limit such exposure with HR Policies and Practices, Technology Protections, and Trade Secret Litigation. In this series, we will look at the first of these methods: HR Policies and Practices. These front-end defenses are so important because laws to protect businesses after the theft occurs are often inadequate.
A business’ HR Policies and Practices should focus on protection of business data. Some common sense policies include subjecting new employee candidates to a background investigation. Background investigations may reveal prior crimes of dishonesty or terminations of employment due to dishonest actions. Identifying and avoiding the hiring of candidates for employment who may have a proclivity for dishonest behavior is one significant way to reduce the likelihood of employee theft of data.