More than half of all ex-employees have admitted to stealing company data.
A survey by Symantec and the Ponemon Institute revealed that 59 per cent of employees who lost or left a job in 2008 admitted to stealing confidential company information, such as customer contact lists.
Of the respondents, 53 per cent downloaded information onto a CD or DVD, 42 per cent onto a USB drive and 38 per cent sent attachments to a personal email account.
Meanwhile 79 per cent of respondents took data without an employer's permission, while 82 per cent said their employers did not perform an audit or review of paper or electronic documents before the respondent left his/her job.
Perhaps the most worrying statistic was that 24 per cent of respondents had access to their employer's computer system or network after their departure from the company.
Rob Greer, senior director of product management for data loss prevention solutions at Symantec, said: “Data loss during downsizing is preventable. We can prevent employees from emailing sensitive content to personal webmail accounts or downloading it onto USB drives. Companies need to implement data loss prevention technologies so they know exactly where sensitive data resides, how it is being used, and prevent it from being copied, downloaded or sent outside the company.”
Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said: “The survey's findings should sound the alarm across all industries: your sensitive data is walking out the door with your employees. Even if layoffs are not imminent, companies need to be more aware of who has access to sensitive business information.”