While high-profile leaks continue to dominate recent headlines, businesses are struggling to protect their own confidential information.
Here are four common ways in which these leaks take place:
This occurred in 2015 when a fired Tesla employee hacked into his former boss’s email and published a customer complaint online paired with disparaging comments aimed at the automaker’s credibility. The indictment also charged him with stealing private employee evaluations and sharing them with former coworkers.
Malicious leaks of this nature can leave a long-lasting stain on a brand’s reputation. Employers must understand that humans are highly emotional beings, and some will go as far as to breach contracts or break the law to leak confidential information during a fit of rage.
Job interviews can be a stressful affair for the person being interviewed. Some take place one-on-one inside a small, closed office — not unlike a police interrogation. Some interviewees may willingly leak information like pricing, clients, and technologies during the interview for perceived personal gain — and the tense atmosphere combined with pressure from the interviewer may make others reluctantly reveal trade secrets out of discomfort.
You can put NDAs and other confidentiality agreements in place, but in the end, it is going to come down to the composure and integrity of the individuals you hire to protect your trade secrets in those situations.
A former Wells Fargo employee was suing the bank as part of a defamation lawsuit, and his lawyer requested documentation from the former employer. When the plaintiff’s lawyer opened his email, he was shocked to see he had received spreadsheets filled with customers’ names, social security numbers and other confidential information accidentally sent by Wells Fargo’s lawyer.
There are ever-growing ways in which employees can accidentally leak confidential information: Sending an email to the wrong person, sending a public post instead of a private message and responding to a text without realizing it is a group message are just a few common examples to be aware of.
The 2015 movie The Big Short, based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis set during the 2008 housing collapse, depicts such a situation when Ryan Gosling’s character, Jared Vennett, first discovers the creation of credit default swaps at a bar packed with Wall Street professionals.
Organizational leaks can range from minor embarrassments to serious legal and financial disasters. Business owners can protect confidential information and trade secrets by creating dialogue with their employees about these risks, the consequences of a breach and their responsibilities in the situations outlined above.
Brian Hart, 2017, 4 Common Ways Your Employees Leak Trade Secrets (and How to Stop Them), August 16, 2017, <https://www.inc.com/brian-hart/your-employees-are-probably-leaking-trade-secrets-.html>