Employee monitoring is a cybersecurity method that monitors and records employee activity online to safeguard sensitive information and intellectual property against corporate espionage. By utilizing digital tools to monitor employees rather than surveillance cameras, employers can save time and money.
What is corporate espionage?
Gathering information from employees and companies with out consent is generally considered unethical, and in many cases illegal. But unlike cybercrime, it’s not a particularly new phenomenon. Spying on or within corporations to obtain trade secrets or other information is as old as business itself.
Some key moments in corporate espionage
- 1880: Britain deceptively acquires tea plants, seeds and secrets from China in what some would call “the greatest single act of corporate espionage in history.”
- 1993: General Motors alleged that Volkswagen was using its trade secrets, resulting in one of the greatest settlements of its kind.
- 2006: Hewlett-Packard used questionable “pretexting” methods to gain access to phone records from reporters to determine who had leaked their long-term strategy.
The state of trade secret theft today
What impact does corporate espionage have on business? Annually, trade secret theft results in the loss of billions of dollars, and that number is on the rise as digital methods pave the way for even greater loss. While remote cyber espionage is easily costing up to $1 trillion globally, it’s not the sole problem. Even as companies ramp up their cybersecurity defenses, threats often lurk internally. There, employees are often free to launch attacks unseen, or acquire and misappropriate classified information without consent.
It’s no secret that countries and competing companies are eyeing corporate trade secrets—and they’re increasingly placing people within companies who can obtain the information they want. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reported job advertisements placed with the specific purpose of attracting and placing employees into positions to leak Intellectual property and other information.
How employee monitoring works
The use of video cameras focused on computer screens to record employee activities is giving way to digital tools that can track the digital landscape in a more cost effective and efficient way. Employee monitoring tools have a range of functions that give employers an inside look at what their teams are doing at the computer while at work. These tools can be set to continuously record computer activity or take screenshots at intervals. They can give management access to detailed records of emails sent and received, programs being run, files being transferred, websites being visited and much more. Top-tier monitoring programs can also archive, label and store the recordings for easy retrieval down the road. Between keyword detection, reporting and screenshot logging, management can have the peace of mind knowing that their team isn’t working against them.
While monitoring company computers during work-based activity is completely legal, it must take ethical considerations into account to avoid allegations of misuse. As companies establish a monitoring system, they must let all employees know when, where and how they are being monitored, and inform vendors and guests of this as well.
How does employee monitoring fit into a bigger cybersecurity plan?
Data breaches and cybercrime don’t just come from external forces. Because internal dangers most often pass undetected, it’s vital to create a comprehensive security system that prevents and deters malicious or probing behavior on every front and at every possible entry point.
Want to give your company the upper hand in security? There’s no time like the present to strengthen your company’s defenses against every possible cyberattack or data breach. Contact our data security experts today to see how employee monitoring (and a comprehensive cybersecurity plan) can help keep your business tracking upward.