Divulging company secrets and IP unknowingly?

How many employees in your company are assigned cellular phones? The number across the United States alone is alarming I am sure. Of course we tell ourselves that knowing where our employees are during working hours and allowing our employees to be more productive is a small price for the monthly bill. Lets now think about what kind of risks do we expose ourselves to as owners of these companies.

Some that immediately come to mind are:

Company espionage
Intellectual Property theft
Personal “spillage”
Human resource complaints

The list goes one, but let’s just talk about the simple ones that jumped to the forefront.

How easy would it be for an employee, issued a smart phone, to photograph, forward a company email or video events, sure to undermine the company, while covertly sending the data to the competitor. This could happen while in the presence of any non suspecting employee; the spy never uncovered.

How about an employee who hears of a revolutionary advance in their company’s software design and knowing the company email is “monitored” decides to photograph the electronic document on the screen. Of course not with a standard camera, but the one issued by the company; a 5 megapixel smartphone even capable of scanning documents. Most certainly untracable the employee believes because all data will be deleted once the photograph is sent via their gorilla-mail account; the personal mail account they setup on their issued company phone. The photograph then goes to the highest bidder.

Personal “spillage” easily occures when an employee uses the company issued cellphone to text message, photograph, search the internet, surf the web, blog, etc to conduct personal business. The “spillage” occurs when their personal business becomes public business and the company is then put in the spotlight. Can you say Bret Farve? Granted, Farve’s phone was not issued by the company for all I know, but the picture is easily painted ( or imagined).

There are always the human resource issues with regards to allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment and the like that have occurred via messages, pictures or calls in the workplace using company issued cellphones. One employee alleges that something was sent to them by another employee’s cellphone, but the acused employee adamantly denies they sent it. The only evidence sits on the company electronic device that was issued to them.

Now comes the challenge; extracting the data from these devices in a forensically sound manner.

These are only but a few examples of what the electronic business age has brought us. Does this mean we deny our employees digital devices to use in our employment? Get rid of a device that keeps our employees more in touch, easily accessible and more productive? I would hope not. What these examples should spark is how we distribute our electronic devices, how we cultivate the data contained on the device and more over how we analyze the data should we have to.

Lee Reiber


Lee Reiber

About Lee Reiber

Pioneering mobile device forensic examiner, consultant and trainer, software development innovator and former LE officer with the Boise Police Department
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