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Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi, LLP

Employee Theft in the Digital Age

Theft or some variation of it has always been a crime. But in the digital age, just taking something from a store isn't the only way to steal. Confidential digital information is regularly being stolen and the problem is growing. Why? Because much of it is from "inside jobs."

Employees currently account for up to 40% of theft, according to various experts. The United States Department of Commerce estimates that up to $50 billion worth of property is stolen every year by employees. There's no way to stop it unless monitoring mechanisms are put into place. Smaller companies are particularly vulnerable because of an overly trusting atmosphere and a lack of resources for proper security.

Digital companies such as SunPower, a Silicon Valley startup, are dealing with these very same problems. Confidential information stored at their headquarters was allegedly stolen by employees who left and gave it to their new employer, SolarCity. Forensic analysis showed that flash drives were used by the employees to download quotes, deals, proposals, contracts, and files. There was no reason to suspect that they were stealing when they inserted seemingly innocent flash drives into their computers.

In today's world, digital information is being stolen more and more often. Just look at Sony's theft problem last year when credit card information was stolen from their PlayStation servers. And that was from the outside. "Insiders" know how a company functions and have access to its "intellectual" as well as other important information. In the 21st century, the need for employers to have IT security may, unfortunately, be part of the cost of doing business.

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