Top 5 cybersecurity risks involved during layoffs

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Major technology companies like Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft have recently made headlines with their announcements of employee layoffs. However, these workforce reductions can potentially expose organizations to cybersecurity risks, several of which will be discussed in this article.

1. Employee Training: Downsizing can disrupt or delay critical IT services, as new staff members must familiarize themselves with the company’s infrastructure and adapt to its work culture. This transition can introduce security vulnerabilities, leading to misconfiguration errors, network congestion, and disruptions in the regular flow of data.

2. Insider Threats: Disgruntled former employees may become insider threats by leaking sensitive information to competitors or erasing mission-critical data. Such actions can result in downtime, decreased productivity, and severe damage to a company’s reputation by undermining critical infrastructure. According to a 2021 report by Cybersecurity Insiders, 66% of businesses perceive themselves as highly susceptible to insider threats, which can lead to significant reputational harm.

3. Unused Accounts: Layoffs often result in the creation of forgotten digital accounts, which can be exploited if their credentials fall into the wrong hands. These accounts may be misused by former employees or by hackers who gain unauthorized access to login information. To mitigate this risk, it is advisable to promptly deactivate these dormant accounts when employees depart, requiring effective coordination between the HR and IT departments.

4. Remote Worker Layoffs: Special attention must be given when terminating remote workers. Their access to the company’s digital infrastructure should be immediately revoked upon their departure, and their login credentials should be rendered inactive. Failing to do so could leave the organization vulnerable to potential threats from former remote employees.

5. Retrieving Employee Devices: Many companies provide employees with devices to maximize productivity, especially in sectors like software and IT. However, when an employee leaves the organization, it is common for companies to neglect retrieving these devices. This oversight can pose a cybersecurity threat, as departing employees may misuse or sell the information and applications stored on these devices to unauthorized parties. To mitigate this risk, it is advisable for HR departments to collect these devices on the employee’s last day of work.

In conclusion, as companies navigate the challenges of workforce reductions, they must remain vigilant in addressing the cybersecurity risks associated with employee layoffs. Implementing comprehensive procedures for employee off-boarding, account deactivation, and device retrieval can help safeguard sensitive information and protect against potential threats to an organization’s digital infrastructure.

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Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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