How to Prevent Data Theft by Employees

Prevent Data Theft by Employees

Insider threats have become common as companies rely more on technology and digital information. Network security has become increasingly important to businesses looking to protect sensitive data.

Our guide will help you safeguard your company’s valuable information and maintain data integrity, including tips on how to prevent data theft by employees.

Quick Takeaways

  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to secure employee accounts and prevent unauthorized access.
  • Establish Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC) to limit employee access to sensitive data based on their job responsibilities.
  • Regularly monitor user activity and implement alerts for suspicious or anomalous behavior that could indicate potential data theft.
  • Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit to minimize the impact of a data breach.
  • Provide comprehensive employee training on data security best practices and cybersecurity awareness to build a strong security culture.
  • Regularly review and update access permissions and have a robust offboarding process to revoke access for departing employees.

The Risk of Data Theft by Employees

Data theft by employees has become a pressing concern for organizations of all sizes due to the modern digital-centric business environment.

The Insider Threat

report by Willis North America reveals that employees themselves perpetrate a staggering 90% of all major theft losses. 

Employees who have authorized access to sensitive company data can easily abuse their privileges and compromise that information for personal gain or malicious intent. 

Creating a Strong Security Culture

Here’s how to prevent data theft by employees and establish a solid foundation:

Employee Training and Awareness Programs

Lack of employee awareness and training is one of the biggest threats to data security. Employees can unknowingly expose sensitive information to cybercriminals through their actions. 

Organizations need employee training and awareness programs. 

Training programs should cover:

  • Phishing attacks
  • Password security
  • social engineering tactics

These programs should also provide employees with the necessary tools to identify and report suspicious activities.

Employee awareness programs can make data security systems more secure. Educating employees about data security helps them understand their roles in protecting sensitive info. 

Establishing Clear Security Policies

Everyone in your organization should be able to understand and follow your security policies.

So, make sure to provide definitions and examples when necessary, avoid jargon and acronyms, and use clear, simple language. Make sure you use consistent terms and formats throughout your policies. 

Templates, checklists, and guidelines can help you structure and write policies. 

Regular Security Audits and Assessments

You can use a security audit to identify where your organization is meeting its security criteria and where it isn’t. Developing risk assessment and mitigation strategies for sensitive data requires security audits.

Successful audits should give your team a snapshot of your security posture and a starting point for remediation. 

They provide a different view of IT security practices.

Reviewing your security policies help you to implement better controls or streamline processes. With threats from every angle, including internal ones, a faceted view of cybersecurity amplifies an organization’s ability to respond to security threats.

Implementing Security Measures and Controls

Here’s how to prevent data theft by employees:

#1: Multi-Factor Authentication for Employee Accounts

Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a must in securing employee accounts. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional evidence of their identity beyond just a username and password. 

If an employee loses their login credentials, it prevents attempts to take over the account.

#2: Network Access Control (NAC) Systems

Organizations can control and monitor who has access to their networks using network access control (NAC) systems. 

With these solutions that give granular control over user and device access, IT teams can segment employees by job role and enforce appropriate access policies.

#3: Secure Authentication for Devices and Applications

Secure authentication must go beyond employee accounts. 

Implement strong authentication measures for all devices and applications accessing corporate data, whether on-premises or in the cloud. You can use biometrics, hardware keys, and other advanced methods to make sure only authorized devices and users can access it.

#4: Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Organizations should restrict employee access to data and resources through role-based access control (RBAC). They minimize the risk of data theft by aligning permissions with job roles to restrict access to sensitive information.

#5: Monitoring for Suspicious or Anomalous Activity

Detecting potential data theft attempts requires continuous monitoring and analysis of user behavior and network activity. 

Organizations should deploy solutions that can identify and flag suspicious activities, such as unusual database queries, unauthorized access to sensitive files, or sudden spikes in data exfiltration.

Managing Employee Access and Permissions 

Maintaining rigorous user access review processes and following least privilege principles can significantly reduce insider data theft.

Least Privilege Principle

The principle of least privilege, a cornerstone of access management, ensures employees receive only the essential access necessary for their tasks. Putting this in place prevents rogue or compromised employees from accessing and misusing sensitive information.

Upholding the least privilege principle requires regular review and adjustment of access permissions based on changing roles and responsibilities.

User Access Reviews and Offboarding Processes

Maintaining control over who can access sensitive data requires regular reviews of user access permissions. 

Organizations should implement a formal process to periodically audit employee access rights and revoke any unnecessary privileges. It prevents malicious insiders from accumulating excessive permissions over time.

Offboarding processes are equally important for mitigating the risks posed by departing employees. Data access must be swiftly revoked upon an employee’s departure to prevent data theft. Automating this offboarding workflow can ensure a consistent and timely response to employee departures.

Centralized User Account Management

Maintaining a centralized and comprehensive system for managing user accounts and permissions can greatly improve an organization’s ability to control access to sensitive information. 

Using a single platform, IT teams can better monitor, audit, and respond to changes in employee access rights. 

Then you can implement consistent access policies across the board.

Privileged Account Management

Privileged account management (PAM) can make it easier to maintain tight control over these sensitive credentials. 

PAM systems give users the ability to store and rotate privileged passwords securely, as well as monitor and audit their activities.

Protecting Sensitive Data

Along with robust access controls and security policies, organizations should also ensure that sensitive data assets are directly protected. 

Using a multifaceted approach to data security helps companies minimize employee theft and misuse.

Encryption of Data at Rest and in Transit

You can prevent data theft by encrypting sensitive data during transit and at rest. Data encryption reduces the impact of unauthorized parties being able to read the information. 

Ensure the encryption of sensitive data regardless of whether it resides on-premises, in the cloud, or undergoes transfer between systems or users.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Using a comprehensive data loss prevention (DLP) solution can help organizations monitor, detect, and prevent sensitive data loss. DLP systems can scan and analyze data across various channels, including:

  • Email
  • Web traffic
  • Cloud storage

Secure Cloud Storage and Access Controls

Cloud network security becomes increasingly vital as organizations rely more on cloud-based collaboration and storage platforms. 

It includes implementing robust access controls, such as MFA and RBAC, to limit employee access to only the necessary resources and data. 

Monitoring and Alerting for Data Exfiltration

Monitor employee activity and network traffic to detect data theft. Detecting and alerting anomalous behavior, like excessive data downloads or unusual file access patterns, should be part of every organization’s security strategy. 

You minimize insider data theft by quickly detecting and responding to warning signs.

Physical Security Measures

Implementing robust physical security measures can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and theft.

Restricting Physical Access to Sensitive Areas

Physical security practices include limiting and controlling access to sensitive information and critical assets. 

Access control systems such as keycards, biometric authentication, or security checkpoints can accomplish this. Keeping strict visitor management protocols and regularly reviewing and updating access permissions can also prevent unauthorized entry.

Securely Disposing of Sensitive Paper Documents

There are serious security risks associated with paper documents. 

Dispose of these materials correctly to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information. Use cross-cut shredders to shred confidential papers or hire a document destruction company to ensure irreversible destruction.

Control and Monitoring of Portable Storage Devices

Without proper management, portable storage devices, like USB drives and external hard drives, can pose a big security risk. Enforce strict policies and controls on these devices, including authorization requirements, tracking device usage, and conducting malware scanning. 

Encrypting sensitive data stored on portable devices can also reduce the risk of loss or theft.

Securing Company-Owned Mobile Devices

The increasing use of mobile devices for business operations makes it essential to protect company-owned smartphones, tablets, and laptops. 

Mobile device management policies, strong passwords, and biometric authentication, as well as regular software updates and security controls can help protect sensitive information on these devices.

Response and Incident Management

Effective response and incident management are critical components of this strategy. 

Organizations should develop an incident response plan outlining steps to:

  • Identify the scope
  • Contain the damage
  • Initiate appropriate actions

Organizations should be ready to conduct a thorough investigation and forensic analysis whenever there’s a suspicion of data theft to determine what happened. 

After an incident, organizations should assess their response processes, identify improvements, and implement corrective measures.

Create a Bulletproof Security Strategy with Perimeter81

Perimeter81 offers a powerful, cloud-based solution to help organizations of all sizes create a bulletproof security strategy to protect against internal and external data theft threats. 

Our converged platform makes setting up and managing your network, users, and resources easy while enforcing a robust zero-trust access policy.

Join a 15-minute demo to learn how Perimeter81 can help you:

  • Easily set up and configure your network, users, and resources
  • Implement a least-privilege access policy to limit data exposure
  • Deploy advanced security tools like two-factor authentication, VPNs, and more
  • Continuously monitor and respond to potential threats

Don’t let employee data theft put your organization at risk. 

Take the first step towards a bulletproof security strategy by scheduling a demo with Perimeter81 today.


What are the most common ways employees steal data?
The most common ways employees steal data include unauthorized access to sensitive files, downloading data to personal devices or cloud storage, and emailing confidential information to external accounts.
How can I detect if an employee is stealing data?
Effective methods to detect employee data theft include monitoring user activity, setting up alerts for unusual behavior, and implementing data loss prevention (DLP) tools to identify and block unauthorized data transfers.
What should I do if I suspect an employee of data theft?
If you suspect an employee of data theft, you should immediately investigate the incident, secure any evidence, and follow your organization’s incident response plan. 
How can I prevent data theft by former employees?
To prevent data theft by former employees, it’s important to revoke access to company systems and data, collect all company-owned devices, and remind departing employees of their continued obligation to protect confidential information.
What are the legal consequences of employee data theft?
Depending on the nature and severity of the incident, the legal consequences of employee data theft can include civil lawsuits, criminal charges, and substantial fines.

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