pink slip

Terminating an Employee and Company Data

Russell W. Gilmore, CISSP, CISM, EnCE Computer Forensics, Corporate Compliance, Theft, Theft, Embezzlement, and Fraud


pink slipHaving to terminate an employee is never easy. To make the process even more difficult, consider the recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Courion which stated that 19% of employees age 18 to 34 would take company data with them if they knew they were about to be fired. Read the full story here.

Depending on the employee’s position at the company, the termination process could be quite cumbersome. Before terminating an employee, it is good to think about their role in the company and what they have access to or control over. Each situation is different and should not be handled in a cookie-cutter fashion. Terminating the IT manager will involve different issues than terminating a sales person.

What steps can you take to minimize risk? Strong policies and procedures are a good starting point. If an employee knows that severe repercussions may result for data theft, he or she may decide against the theft.

As we’ve said before, there are opportunities for companies to preserve data and protect themselves prior to the termination process or as part of the termination procedure itself (When Employees Leave Data Should Stay). When it is evident that an employee must be terminated, steps should be taken to image the computer or devices used by the employee, even if a future computer forensic analysis is not needed. It may even be beneficial to image the computer prior to termination and again after termination. I have often been called to recover data deleted by an employee after they have learned of their impending termination.

As a consultant, I have assisted in a number of terminations, and they are all different. Proper preparation and forethought will not only benefit the company but protect the employee as well.