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A third of employees still have access to files from former workplace, Kaspersky finds

Businesses are putting themselves at increased risk of losing data, by not curbing the actions of current and former employees.

Data Leakage Prevention, Kaspersky Lab

A staggering third (33%) of workers still have access to files and documents from a previous employer, putting the integrity of data and company livelihood at risk, finds new research ‘Sorting out digital clutter in business' from Kaspersky.

Former employees can also use this data for their own purposes, for example in a new workplace, or they may accidentally delete or damage it. As a result, data recovery will require time and effort, which otherwise could be spent on more useful business tasks.

With every business today drowning in digital files, using collaboration applications, online documents, and file sharing services, it can be hard for them to keep track of what data resides where, who has access to it, when and how. However, this lack of clarity when it comes to ‘digital clutter' is not only an organizational headache: failing to lock down data that lives online could pose a disadvantage or even a threat to business.

The risk of unauthorized access to work files may not come from the most obvious party: workers that are no longer with a company but were not cut off from the corporate email service, messenger app or Google documents. The situation is especially worrying as these assets include intellectual property, commercial secrets or other protected or confidential data that, if let loose, could be used by cybercriminals or competitors to their own advantage. Among the respondents that Kaspersky Lab surveyed, 72% admitted working with documents that contain different kinds of sensitive data.

The study also found that due to digital data mess, it takes employees' time to find the right document or data stored in different places. 57% of office staff found it difficult to locate a document or file while at work. The same amount (58%) also use the same device for work and personal use which means that information on different devices can be duplicated or become outdated, causing confusion and possible errors at work. This digital clutter may also lead to data compromise if it falls into the hands of a third party, or even a competitor. The consequences of this could take the form of penalties and lawsuits with clients, as a result of violation of an NDA or data protection legislation.

The problem of proper access to work assets is also highlighted by the fact that just under a third (29%) of workers admit to sharing their username and password credentials for a work device with a co-worker. In today's office culture of open spaces and collaborative ways of working, employees are often more inclined not to set boundaries but to share everything with their colleagues, from paper clips and ideas, to desks, tasks and even devices. Bad password habits and a laissez-faire attitude to sensitive corporate data may seem harmless enough and might not directly lead to a breach, however it does point towards a need for wider education of the risks.

"Digital files in disarray and uncontrolled access to data can sometimes lead to breaches and cyber-incidents but, in most cases, will likely result in office work disruption, wasted time and lost energy associated with recovering missing files. For businesses - especially small and actively developing companies which strive to be efficient and competitive - the situation is very undesirable. Combating clutter, carefully managing access rights and using cybersecurity solutions is not only about protecting against cyberthreats. It is a guarantee of effective work without interruptions, where all files are in the right place and employees can allocate their time to achieving business goals, having all the data they need at hand," says Sergey Martsynkyan, Head of B2B Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.