Many businesses rely on unique information which it possesses to give it an edge in the marketplace and ensure its continued success. The loss or publicising of such information can seriously damage the prospects of a company as it will lose the edge provided by the information.
Employees are a particular risk to the security of this information, either unwittingly or deliberately and therefore businesses need to ensure that they have reviewed this risk and that they take steps to mitigate.
It is important to ensure that your internal security provisions are up to date and effective.
This extends from ensuring all staff have password protected user accounts on their PCs to ensuring your anti-virus software and firewalls are up to date.
If you hold a lot of important information in electronic format you should ensure this is adequately backed up off site in the event of a fire or other incident which damages your IT protection. Cloud-based back up solutions are widely available with varying levels of capacity and security.
If staff carry confidential or sensitive data on portable devices (such as laptops, tablets or USB sticks) this data should be encrypted in case the device is lost or stolen.
With smart phones, tablets and cloud based storage it is easier than ever for employees to transfer or access data from anywhere, including on their own smart phone or tablet.
Employees are increasingly accessing work emails or other company IT systems from home and this increases security risks. Where sensitive data can be accessed by employees through their own devices it is wise to implement polices which either prevent this or introduce procedures for ensuring it is done in a secure manner, for example ensuring devices are password protected and that data cannot be stored locally on the device.
Throughout the course of any employment relationship there is an implied contractual duty of trust and confidence which exists between the employee and the employer. This means that all employees are required to treat all confidential data as such and only to use it in the proper course of carrying out their role.
However, where the employment relationship has ended that implied duty ceases but the employee will still be aware of that information and may in fact have access to it; therefore they could then use that data to assist a competitor or use it when setting up their own business.
Accordingly it is always sensible and often imperative to have a confidentiality agreement within the contract of employment (or signed separately) preventing the use or distribution of genuinely confidential information after the employment has terminated. This will give the company a means of legal redress (such as damages or an injunction) should an employee try to make illegitimate use of the data.
In addition to the confidentiality clause it is also sensible for senior employees and those who have regular client contact to have restrictive covenants in their employment contracts.
A restrictive covenant can limit the right of a former employee to solicit business from your clients, poach your employees or even set up in competition for a period of time.
As restrictive covenants act in restraint of trade and competition in the marketplace the courts are reluctant to enforce them and therefore will only do so where they are used to protect a legitimate business interest and are drafted reasonably. We therefore recommend that professional advice is always sought when considering restrictive covenants.
Not all polices and procedures will be effective and often will become obsolete as businesses change and technology develops. It is therefore important to invest time and effort in reviewing and improving your information security in order to protect the time, money and effort spent collecting that information.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any specific issue relating to information security and employees, you can call us on 0114 241 7092 or Email
By Guy Woodcock
If you don't have Microsoft Office, or Microsoft Word installed on your PC or Mac, don't worry - you can still use our products. You can get a free alternative from Open Office.
Open Office Org is open-source developed alternative to Microsoft Office, developed by a large software company called Oracle. Open Source means the company who build the software, allow 100% use of it, 100% free.
Since Open Office is specifically developed to be exactly the same as Microsoft Office, with all the same programs in the suite (Eg: Word, Excel, Access and Power Point) - it will freely open any Microsoft Office file-format. Meaning, just because a document was written in Microsoft Word, doesn't mean it can't be opened in another program. Open Office will do that, and vise versa.
To download and install Open Office;