The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to rethink how they can operate effectively during a global shutdown, and energy companies are no exception. In fact, the perfect storm of significant lack of demand due to the quarantines and worldwide oversupply has resulted in a wave of furloughs, early retirement offers, and mass layoffs across the industry. And departing employees often are the source of data leaving your company.
Energy veterans know these ebbs and flows are part of the cyclical nature of the business. However, the current situation – one with remote workforces, 24/7 access to sensitive data from personal and company-issued devices, and an onslaught of cybersecurity threats – should encourage leaders of these organizations to consider a proactive, collaborative approach to preventing data breaches and IP threats.
If you’re in IT or HR…
IT and HR teams are essential to protecting a company’s digital assets under normal circumstances, and are especially vital during stressful employee departures. As you work together to prepare for groups of employees to leave the company, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Keep a list of all devices each employee used to conduct business. This includes company-issued laptops, phones, and tablets, as well as personal devices that they could have used for business emails, housed coworker and client/customer contact information, or accessed internal networks, servers, and corporate cloud accounts.
- Image all devices upon receipt. Before wiping a device of all data and reissuing or storing it, image the device. This ensures you have everything backed up and easily accessible if IP or data theft concerns arise.
- Don’t forget about USB drives and the cloud. If your organization allows employees to use USB drives, consider implementing software on company-issued laptops that can track what files have been saved from the laptop or network to a USB or other external drive. You also can track what has been saved to the cloud (e.g., Google Drive, etc.). This software can be implemented remotely in the days or weeks leading up to employee departure.
If you’re in-house legal counsel…
You’re used to going to bat to protect the company’s assets, so here is how to keep your skills sharp during this difficult time.
- Get an independent, third-party perspective on the witness stand. If you have an in-house forensics team, you rely on their expertise during data security or IP theft cases. It also is beneficial to engage an independent certified forensic expert who has experience on the witness stand explaining complex ideas and evidence for any judge or juror to understand clearly. Additionally, a third-party expert is able to provide unbiased insights without a personal interest in the outcome; by not being persuadable, independent forensic experts are considered more credible witnesses than your internal employees.
- Consider outsourcing data collection and analysis. If you don’t have an in-house forensics team, or had to reduce your headcount in that area, hiring temporary staff during a surge in workload can be an effective solution. Or simply outsource data collection and analysis altogether on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re in a leadership role…
During difficult times, employees rely on their leadership teams to set the tone, keeping a keen eye on how they will steer the company through to the other side. Here’s how to engage employees to help protect your data and IP amid the uncertainty.
- Educate your employees on how to combat phishing attempts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in email phishing attempts, which potentially could cripple companies, especially those already struggling with difficult economic circumstances. You can work with a cybersecurity expert to remotely implement company-wide or department-specific training on how to identify and report phishing attempts. Improving cybersecurity awareness allows employees to be part of a proactive solution and helps leadership see how susceptible they are to a data breach based on results from the training.
It takes a team effort to keep your company’s data secure. From offboarding employees, to maintaining a remote and connected workforce, to planning for a new normal, work together to keep your company protected now and in the future.
Looking to learn more or get started on implementing these solutions? Talk to a Pathway expert to discuss your specific situation at firstname.lastname@example.org.