The Cybersecurity Risk of Ineffective Employee Offboarding


Employees, whether in office or remote, require onboarding when they join a company. This onboarding process is typically the first task accomplished for a new hire to ensure they have all the necessary tools and resources to do their job. Unfortunately, the same time and attention is often not spent on employee offboarding. There can be some obvious risks with employees who are terminated, quit unexpectedly or are asked to leave their roles within a company; however, there are still high cybersecurity risks associated with employees that choose to leave a company, retire or resign.

What is Employee Offboarding?

Employee offboarding is defined as the process that leads to the formal separation between an employee and an organization or company through resignation, termination or retirement. It encompasses all the decisions and processes that take place when an employee leaves. [Source]

While the cybersecurity risk of improper employee offboarding is not a novel concept, it is becoming an increasingly dangerous risk to businesses due to the rise in remote positions. This increase in remote work among professionals has increased the use of cloud-based networks, file sharing, and more company-owned hardware being utilized outside of the organization’s physical office. This has increased the likelihood of improper employee offboarding.

Unlike employee onboarding, the employee offboarding process is very frequently overlooked, and usually not much more is done other than turning in hardware and revoking access to systems, platforms and/or cloud-based networks at the base level. This process alone does not eliminate the risk of compromised or stolen data and, unfortunately, this often-overlooked procedure leaves businesses highly vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.

Top 3 Cybersecurity Risks of Ineffective Employee Offboarding

  1. Data Loss/Data Breach
    1. Whether a parting of ways is amicable or not, data loss may be the biggest risk when it comes to offboarding employees. Former employees who still have access to data may intentionally or unintentionally delete or damage files that are critical to a business. If access to your organization’s data isn’t properly revoked, data breach events are a real possibility. This risk is greater now more than ever with 25% of all professional jobs remining remaining remote in 2022 and projected to increase in 2023. [Source]

      Deleted or damaged files are not the only risk. Data theft by a disgruntled or soon-to-be former employee is a huge risk. In a study completed by Ponemon Institute, over 50% of those surveyed admitted to taking information from a former employer, and 40% admitted they intended to use it in a new job. [Source]
  2. Compliance Violations
    1. Regulatory compliance frameworks are an imperative aspect of your organization’s cybersecurity posture. Former employees who harvest data or maintain access to sensitive data may leak or destroy it, causing a major compliance violation. The regulatory compliance laws such as HIPPA and GDPR are very strict about data security, especially customer data, which may result in fines or penalties up to 4% of your organization’s global turnover.
  3. Ruined Reputation
    1. The additional cost of a ruined reputation due to data loss or breach can be significant. Not only can the organization lose business, but it can also be held liable for damages that its customers incur because of a data breach. According to IBM’s Cost of A Data Breach Report 2021, the average cost of a data breach topped $4.24 million last year and is continuing to rise.

Five Tips for Employee Offboarding

  1. Document a Digital Inventory
    1. There should be a detailed record of every company device in the employee’s possession, accounts they have access to, and any admin permissions and responsibilities.
  2. Audit/Monitor Employee Activity
    1. It is important to monitor network activity to ensure employees are not downloading a high volume of files or moving them to personal clouds.
  3. Change Passwords and Reset Shared Passwords
    1. This action should be performed no later than the employee’s last day, before they leave the building, and should also include deactivating or transferring ownership of any licenses.
  4. Prevent Email Forwarding
    1. Prevent the usage of email as a method of data leakage or data exfiltration by not only revoking access to email but also to ensure that email forwarding on all inactive accounts is deactivated.
  5. Incorporate Offboarding in the Exit Interview
    1. As part of your exit interview, be sure to review the digital inventory checklist and confirm all devices have been returned and all employee access has been deleted or revoked before they leave the building for the last time. Access to email, software, cloud services, apps and other digital properties should also be removed.

Our Best Employee Offboarding Tip: Mitigate Your Risk with MXDR

Employee offboarding can be overwhelming, tedious and time consuming, and is another reason why employees continue to be one of the biggest risks to a business’s cybersecurity. Utilizing an all-inclusive security platform such as Managed eXtended Detection and Response (MXDR) from Securus360 provides threat visibility across your organization’s entire infrastructure, including monitoring all end user behavior, not just during onboarding and offboarding, but 24/7/365. MXDR proactively hunts, detects, and helps to neutralize cybersecurity threats in all forms before they can impact your business.

Contact Securus360 to schedule your cybersecurity evaluation and MXDR demo!

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