Procurement · 6 November 2017

Are your employees maliciously leaking data to rival companies?

Vector illustration - Criminal succeeds hacking theft.
Half of workers are deleting sent messages to cover their tracks

Whilst most business owners are now well aware of the importance of security, many are unaware that one of the biggest threats comes from their own employees. Now, research has revealed that one in four UK workers have maliciously leaked business data in the past, purposely sharing private information with rival companies.

After polling over 2,000 British office workers, software firm Egress uncovered the extent to which workplace email networks are misused by staff, and the danger this poses to businesses.. The quarter of employees who were intentionally leaking data outside of their company were typically passing it onto competitors or new or previous employers.

However, many employees did hold their hands up and admit sending emails to incorrect recipients as a result of human error. The most common cause for a misdirected email was “rushing”, but alcohol was found to be the reason for eight per cent of all those wrongly sent.

Auto-fill technology had also caused problems for businesses. Almost half of respondents said auto-fill had selected the wrong email recipient from a list, and they had hit send before realising.

Read more: Ten steps to prepare your business for GDPR

Almost 50 per cent of workers said they’d incorrectly received an email before, confirming how frequently misdirected emails land in the inbox of the wrong employee. Although they often contained rude or inappropriate messages, some saw confidential business information leave the company.

Worringly, almost one in ten accidentally leaked sensitive attachments such as bank details or customer information, seriously compromising both the customer and the business.

Whether innocently or deliberately, employees guilty of leaking data are going through measures to cover their tracks. Half of all survey respondents said they either had or would delete emails from their sent folder if they had sent information somewhere they shouldn’t have.

Sounding the alarm for small business owners, Tony Pepper, Egree CEO and co-founder, said email was being “seriously misused” by Britain’s workforce.

“While offending an accidental recipient may cause red faces, leaking confidential information can amount to a data breach,” Pepper warned.

“As we move towards the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it has never been more important to get a grip on any possible risk points within the organisation and, as this research shows, email needs serious attention.

“Data breaches are becoming much more prevalent and organisations are struggling to mitigate the risks caused by unpredictable user behaviour.”

Your employees have access to confidential data – Here’s why it pays to protect it

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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