Covering Your Tracks: Not so easy when walking in the Cloud!

I got a panicked phone call from a client a few weeks ago.

Mitch, we fired one of our sales people last month, and we just discovered that she stole all of our client information, and covered their tracks by completely wiping their Outlook clean.  We need that information back.  Is there anything we can do?

Firstly, I have told you over and over again… when you are planning on letting an employee go, do so with some planning.  Collaborate with your IT department and HR, so that when they are called into your office for that uncomfortable conversation, all of their passwords are changed.

(And no, it won’t do to change all of their passwords and wait for them to come to ask why…)

You may be letting the employee go for any reason, but all that employee knows is that they no longer have a job, and they have to find ways to protect their future.  While it is illegal and dishonest, some of them may think that taking your corporate secrets – client files, leads, whatever – is an investment that is rightly theirs.  After all, they helped bring in those clients, right?  Wrong… They were paid for what they did.

The days when you could simply fire someone and have them escorted out of the office and be done with it are over; most employees (and former employees, if you allow it!) can access their data – your data – from anywhere, and are probably carrying a smart phone in their pocket so they can do it while they are waiting for the elevator.

Of course, there are ways to protect your data so they cannot easily steal or destroy it, but why take the chance?  Disable their accounts before they have the opportunity to be tempted.

The answer, by the way, is yes… I was able to recover all of the deleted Outlook Data by going into the Exchange Administration of their Office 365 account.  It cost them a few hundred dollars for my time, and it was a good lesson learned.  However what I cannot get back for them – and no technical expert can – is the proprietary that the dismissed employee took and used to secure their next job with the competition.  That will require attorneys, and you can only hope that in your jurisdiction the law favours the employer and not the dismissed employee.


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