Jean Patrice Delia from Montreal pleaded guilty to the charges. Delia admitted that he had worked with another man to use trade secrets from GE to compete against the company. Miguel Sernas, from Mexico City, and Delia went into business together at ThermoGen Power Services. Delia stole the information from GE in Schenectady, between the years of 2001 and 2012.
He was accused of stealing thousands of electronic files from GE. The files included exclusive tools developed to calibrate turbines in GE’s worldwide power plants. Delia has been ordered to jail for 2 years as well as ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution. His final sentence is shorter than that asked for by prosecutors. They had originally requested a term of 3 years and 1 month. They argued that Delia was the person who stole the materials and was the driving force behind the plan. Prosecutors pointed out that the crime was not victimless. Prosecutors argued that many people were effected and the consequences should reflect that.
On the other hand, Delia’s attorney Paul S. Folk asked for time served, saying that he had accepted responsibility and was trying to make amends. Delia entered his guilty plea almost 2 years ago, in December 2019. Miguel Sernas was sentenced to time served which amounted to about a year in jail. He was also ordered to pay $1.4 million, the same amount as Delia.
Other employees stealing trade secrets in recent cases
Another recent case involving trade secrets theft is that of a former employee at Pfizer. Chun Xiao Li is being sued by her previous employer. Pfizer alleges that Li stole trade secrets including documents relating to their COVID-19 vaccine, as well as other products. They allege that she uploaded over 12,000 documents. Additionally, she allegedly lied about why and where the files were stored on a private Google Drive account. Li had been working as an associate director of statistics. She had already been under investigation by Pfizer when she resigned from the company in November.
Also in recent weeks, the first Chinese spy has been convicted in the US of economic espionage for trying to steal aviation trade secrets. Yanjun Xu has been convicted of two counts of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. He could be fined more than $5 million and receive up to 60 years in prison. Xu targeted several aviation and aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, which is a unit of General Electric. He was first arrested in Belgium in 2018, with his extradition to the US following six months later.
Both large corporations and small businesses could be at risk of intellectual property theft and trade secret misappropriation. These prominent cases in the news could result in organizations taking steps to reduce the risks of this happening.
Pfizer launched a lawsuit against a former employee, Chun Xiao Li. They are alleging the theft of thousands of documents relating to some of their products.
Pfizer is suing a recently departed employee on accusations of stealing trade secrets. They allege that Chun Xiao Li downloaded thousands of documents before she resigned. They included documents linked to their COVID-19 vaccine, as well as two other products, Bavencio, and elranatamab, both of which are monoclonal antibody treatments for cancer.
Li uploaded more than 12,000 documents and mislead the company about her reasons
The brief for the lawsuit was filed in California on November 23 and published by Bloomberg Law. Pfizer says that Li uploaded more than 12,000 documents from the company to a Google Drive account. She misled the company about her reasons for uploading the files and where they were downloaded. She was the associate director of statistics at the time of her departure. Li had worked at the company since 2006. She first worked in China before moving to the US and working in La Jolla. Pfizer had already been investigating her conduct when she resigned on November 12. Potentially for a job offer elsewhere.
Pfizer says the company presented Li with the chance to explain her actions and where the files were on multiple occasions. However, Li failed to do so, which has led to Pfizer filing a lawsuit against her. They have also filed for a temporary restraining order and for financial relief of the company’s costs.
Pfizer says they do not yet understand the full scale of the alleged intellectual property theft. This is due to the number of files involved. The company says that although Li appeared to cooperate at first, she misled the company about what she did with the files. They also allege that she presented the company with a decoy laptop to derail the investigation. The lawsuit alleges theft of trade secrets and breach of contract, among other things.
Similar cases in the biopharma industry
In another case of trade secret theft in the biopharma industry, ex-employees of Genentech recently pleaded guilty to the act. The US Department of Justice said that Xanthe Lam, who was a principal scientist at Genentech, and her husband Allen Lam pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal trade secrets to aid competitors. The pair stole information relating to several cancer drugs made by the company, Rituxan, Herceptin, and Avastin, as well as a treatment for cystic fibrosis. They gave the stolen intellectual property to JHL Biotech, a Taiwanese firm that has now been renamed Eden Biologics.
The DOJ also set its sights on other parties involved, including two co-founders of JHL Biotech, ex-CEO Racho Jordanov, and former COO Rose Lin. They all were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco. Jordanov and Lin were also Genentech employees. They allegedly began scheming to steal trade secrets from the company as early at 2008. They recruited the Lams in 2009, founding JHL in 2011. The indictment also says that the two former executives of JHL obtained thousands of documents used to “cut corners, reduce costs, solve problems, save time, and otherwise accelerate product development timelines”.
Biopharma is an industry where several prominent cases of trade secret theft have taken place in recent years.
Employers beware of Trade Secret Theft. A Forensic Expert can reveal a pattern that is indicative of a departed employee. Hire an Expert (HAE) to help track stolen or misappropriated data to lessen the financial loss left in the wake by a former employee.
Departing Employees Steal Data
Employers beware of trade secret theft! The pandemic forced many employers to require their employees to work from home without appropriate cybersecurity measures required to secure sensitive data. The increased vulnerability of company trade secrets has made it extremely difficult to navigate through an employee’s departure from an organization. Enigma Forensics has over 20 years of experience helping organizations navigate through the separation of employers, partners, and employees. Even the most technically savvy employers in the technology sector have issues with trade secret theft. Check out this example!
August 2020, Former Google exec Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months for stealing self-driving car trade secrets
The technology giant Google recently sued their departed superstar engineer Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski helped develop the fast-growing world of self-driving cars and was the primary executive who helped Google to grow in the self-driving car industry. For reasons we can only speculate about, he departed Google to start his own self-driving truck company called Otto.
Levandowski sold Otto to Uber in 2016
Lewandowski’s new company, Otto become the first-ever self-driving trucking company. In 2016, he entered a deal with Uber to sell Otto and joined Uber as a high-ranking executive in its self-driving division. Google’s new self-driving unit called Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber for trade secret theft. Waymo alleged that through Uber’s purchase of Otto they gained access to Google’s sensitive technology that Levandowski allegedly illegally took on his way out Google’s door.
Levandowski settled with Waymo (Google) in a trade secret theft case
During the trial, Levandowski refused to hand over documents and as a result, became in trouble with the US Attorney’s Office. He eventually reached a deal and was ordered to pay $747,000 in restitution to Google and a fine of $97,000. Levandowski had to declare bankruptcy after another separate court ruling that found him guilty of poaching Waymo engineers. Following the aftermath of the trade secret case against Uber and Levandowski, in September 2020, Levandowski filed another lawsuit. He alleged that the Waymo case negatively affected the Otto deal with Uber, and as a result, didn’t receive the financial rewards that were promised to him. Karma always seems to creep into these scenarios.
The Same Story Over and Over Again
All too often we see the same story played out no matter what the industry, company, or corporation. For top earners, there are only a few options for them to make a change. These are two options that we typically see in trade secret cases.
The first option is to out on their own as an entrepreneur or the second option is to go work for the competition. Once a top earner joins the competition, it’s often only a matter of time before they call on trusted former colleagues to join them. The next step in pursuing employees that departed for a competitor is often hiring a computer forensics expert skilled in trade secret misappropriation investigations. An expert is an unbiased third party that will track down the data that was illegally taken, document his/her findings in an affidavit, and assist with fact discovery. Ultimately, confronting the former employee with clear facts that demonstrate the trade secret misappropriation may lead to an agreed settlement. Often times, litigation continues and leads to a trial with the evidence at issue presented in a court of law. Having an experienced expert on your side can make the difference in the overall outcome.
Enigma Forensics has assisted in many trade secret cases. Hire an Expert (HAE) and Win Your Trade Secret Case! Call Enigma Forensics at 312-668-0333 to investigate.
Trade secret theft of intellectual property, data misappropriation or corporate espionage is a growing trend. All are considered criminal acts that cost employers and employees millions of dollars and future income. This growing trend has attorney’s teaming up with data and computer forensic experts to find the smoking gun and save their clients a great deal of money. Ultimately saving companies or businesses that may be at risk of closing!
How to Avoid Trade Secret Theft of Intellectual Property and Data Misappropriation?
Corporate trade secret theft of intellectual property and data misappropriation with a competitive international company. All sounds right out of a James Bond movie!
Employee Resigns but Doesn’t Tell He Will Be Working for the Competitor
In September of 2015, an employee of a metal company was caught red-handed at O’Hare International airport with his luggage filled with company documents. That employee was Robert O’Rourke. O’Rourke was unhappy working for Dura-Bar, a McHenry County metal manufacturing firm he started working for in 1984 as a metallurgical engineer and eventually became a salesperson. He accepted a new position for a Chinese competitor named Hualong as Vice President of research and development. When he resigned he didn’t tell Dura-Bar management he was going to work for Hualong company. A company that manufactures cast-iron products and is in direct competition with Dura-Bar. On his last day of work, O’Rourke goes out for drinks with some of his colleagues. He slips up and tells them he is going to work for Hualong.
Departing Employee Downloads Electronic Data and Documents Belonging to the Company.
According to evidence at trial, in late 2013, O’Rourke began several months of negotiations to take a similar job with a rival firm in Jiangsu, China. While still employed at Dura-Bar, he then downloaded electronic data and documents belonging to Dura-Bar without authorization two days before officially leaving the company. The following week, he packed up the proprietary information and went to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to board a flight to China. Federal authorities intervened at the airport and seized the stolen trade secrets from O’Rourke before he could travel to China. Gotcha!
Employee Charged and Convicted
About four years later, in October 2019, a federal judge sentenced a 30-year employee of a McHenry County manufacturing firm to a year and a day in federal prison for stealing trade secret information while planning to work for a rival company in China.
Hire an Expert (HAE)!
Enigma Forensics has over 20 years of experience. We work with attorneys on recovering and proving trade secret theft of intellectual property and data misappropriation for their clients. Criminal acts such as these can cost companies millions of dollars to defend and recover damages. Companies need to protect themselves by setting up protocols to alert when large quantities of data are being downloaded. To further protect themselves, employers must use non-compete agreements when hiring employees that work with proprietary company information.
Rarely do we hear about trade secret theft and misappropriation in the food industry. It happens! Read about this high profile case involving a famous food celebrity chef!
America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) sues Christopher Kimball for Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
Here is another example of trade secret theft. Check out this blog to see how business and personal emails played a role in the misappropriation of trade secrets. Yes, there is trade secret theft in the food industry!
Who isn’t a fan of cooking shows?
Have you ever watched American’s Test Kitchen (ATK) on public television? In addition to the show, ATK is a multimedia company that has holdings in public television programs such as America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, cooking magazines and books, and several websites? Who knew? We love watching celebrity chefs like Christopher Kimball and other specialized professionals test the great American recipes like meatloaf, roast chicken, and apple pie!
Trade Secret Missappropriation Lawsuit or Foodie Divorce?
Christopher Kimball was the face and personality behind America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. In November 2015, Kimball left ATK’s program and started his own program called Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. When two parties split it’s called a divorce, well, you guessed it, ATK sued Christopher Kimball, the co-founder, part owner, celebrity chef, and the former host of its TV shows. Almost a year later, America’s Test Kitchen Inc. filed a lawsuit on October 31, 2016, as the Plaintiff. They wanted Kimball to change his business model. We call this a foodie divorce.
ATK said Kimball duplicated what he did on the show on Milk Street and that he misappropriated its trade secrets and breached his fiduciary duty to the company. In addition, they claimed that while Kimball was working at ATK as he actively created his new company Milk Street. According to ATK, Kimball stole its collection of recipes, TV show ideas, media contacts, and subscriber information. As a result, ATK sought damages against Kimball and wanted a large sum of all profits that he has derived through the use of the trade secrets he allegedly misappropriated from America’s Test Kitchen. Other defendants named were Melissa Baldino, Kimball’s wife and a former executive director of ATK, Christine Gordon, and Deborah Broide. ATK claimed they aided and abetted Kimball’s breach of his fiduciary duties.
Non-Compete Agreement between ATK and Kimball
It seems that ATK and Kimball did not have a formal non-compete agreement in place. To protect intellectual property, corporations use a non-compete agreement where the employee agrees not to enter into competition with the employer during or after employment. If an employee departs and takes intellectual property without permission that’s considered trade secret theft and misappropriation.
It’s all in the Email!
This case is an example of where most evidence of trade secret misappropriation can be found. It’s all in the email! A variety of emails were attached to the complaint that included notes between Gordon and real estate brokers, between Kimball and an IT consultant covering such issues as how to copy and store tons of recipes. There were emails discovered between Broide and Kimball regarding the media lists; between Gordon and the ATK help desk about whether company scanners would keep copies of documents she scanned.
The Foodie Divorce finally settled!
To all our fellow foodies the good news is that both parties settled. Kimball agreed to return his ATK shares to the company for an undisclosed price. In the end, they agreed to business terms that will allow America’s Test Kitchen and Kimball’s company, Milk Street to co-exist. Giving us foodies the benefit of watching both shows!
Enigma Forensics is a computer forensic company with litigation experts that partner with attorneys to represent plaintiffs and defendants to help prove their case. We dig for evidence of trade secret theft or misappropriation of intellectual property. Most of all we are foodies! We found this story about trade secret theft and misappropriation in the food industry fascinating and wanted to share.
Trade Secret theft = loss in revenue. Use your spider sense when someone from your team departs the company. They can unsuspectedly upload electronic data to the Cloud for later use that will drain your company of future revenue and present an immediate loss! Be aware-hire an expert to forensically image the departed employees hard drive. It will save you money and headaches!
Every company will have an employee leave but how do you protect the company’s trade secrets from leaving with them?
It is more common that you know for employees to leave for a competitor. On their way out the door, they will take with them proprietary data that can result in great harm to an organization including; loss of employees, customers, and important revenue streams. If someone on your team recently left your company and is suspected of having joined a competitor, it is vitally important to take immediate steps to protect your organization’s electronic assets.
What types of data do departed employees take?
Enigma Forensics has seen it all! 1. Client Lists 2. Blueprints 3. Historical quotations 4. Programming files 5. Source Code 6. Rebate levels offered from various vendors 7. Supply Chain information 8. Business protocols that competition can replicate
Hire an Expert!
When investigating departed employees the first step is to create a forensic image of the past employee’s hard drive. We recommend NOT to ask an internal employee to perform this task but most importantly hire a qualified computer expert from outside your company. This avoids any underlying loyalty current employees may have for the departed team member. An expert is trained to ensure the chain of custody is preserved so that it can be presented during a trial. Many have learned that hiring an expert is worth every dime!
What are the benefits?
Enigma Forensics computer experts will look for all types of activity that took place, including websites visited, files accessed, files transferred to external media, files uploaded to DropBox or other cloud accounts, concealment activities; encryption, and deletion of electronic evidence.
If your company is on the other side of a trade secret misappropriation litigation, we encourage you to hire an expert that will perform an initial assessment of the new employee’s activities. This will provide you with the benefit of knowing if the employee did something that could prove harmful to your company. It’s not uncommon that misappropriated trade secrets are done without the new employer’s knowledge. Yet, the new employer can be named in litigation as a co-defendant! Ouch!
Enigma Forensics has worked for both the plaintiff and defendant in trade secret litigation. Our experts are CISSP certified, what is CISSP? Certified Information Systems Security Professional. This advanced level of certification is considered the gold standard in the field of information security. It is a globally recognized certification offered by (ISC)2. (ISC)2 is known to be the world’s leading organization specializing in certifications and training for professionals in the cybersecurity domain. Click here to learn more about ICS2. https://www.isc2.org/
Call Enigma Forensics at 312-668-0333 for a complimentary consultation.
Enigma Forensics experts investigate, preserve and recovery data to prove or disprove Trade Secret Theft. We have assisted many clients in financially recovering what was stolen from them or to help clear their name. Are you interested in learning more about trade secret theft? Check out Tesla’s latest law suit against a former software engineer.
A large portion of our business is forensically recovering and preserving data that is vital in proving or disproving trade secret theft. Enigma Forensics experts love to follow Tesla! We love the look of their beautifully engineered electric cars and we’re very interested in Elon Musk, the controversial character behind the engineering. Who is now labeled the most wealthiest man in the world. Our interest was piqued when we heard about Tesla’s latest lawsuit and that prompted us to write this blog.
On January 22, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alex Khatilov, a former software engineer over Trade Secret Theft and Breach of Contract. Tesla contends that within days after Khatilov started his position on December 28, 2019, he began stealing thousands of highly confidential software files from Tesla’s secured internal network, transferring them to his personal cloud storage account on Dropbox to which Tesla has no access or visibility.
How did Tesla discover this trade secret theft or misappropriation of data?
On January 6, Tesla’s information security personnel detected Khatilov’s unauthorized download of a complete set of all the automation scripts produce by the Quality Assurance Engineering team for WARP Drive over the last twelve years! He was confronted the next day via Microsoft video chat due to Khatilov working remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions. Khatilov claims he installed a Dropbox desktop application to his Tesla issued laptop to allow him to upload administrative files to his personal Dropbox. He swore over and over that he only transferred administrative documents and then when he finally shared his screen with Tesla investigators he could be seen deleting the Dropbox files while on video chat confirming he had willfully destroyed evidence.
Why all the fuss?
How important are these scripts? These scrips are unique to Tesla and run on WARP Drive, the backend software for much of Tesla’s business. These files consisted of “scripts” of proprietary software code that Tesla has spent years of engineering time to build. When executed, these scripts automate a broad range of functions throughout Tesla’s business and only a few select employees have access to these files. It gets better! This is the good part…Khatilov contends he forgot about downloading thousands of confidential files!
The reality of this trade secret theft or misappropriation of confidential data is that Tesla has no way of knowing whether Khatilov copied the scripts onto a thumb drive, a mobile device, or a cloud based storage or most importantly sent them to another individual. To understand more thoroughly how important these “scripts” or trade secrets are…They map out Tesla’s innovations! Making them extremely valuable and beneficial to any competitor.
What measures ensure against trade secret theft or misappropriation?
Tesla limited the “scripts” access to only members of the Quality Assurance Engineering team in which Khatilov was one of forty employees to have access. The engineers that have access are not permitted to download scripts to the cloud or personal devices. This makes us wonder how Khatilov was able to download data!
Only eight people within the Tesla company are approved to grant access to these scripts.
Each engineer signs an extensive employment agreement and agrees to policy conditions of their employment with includes a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), that holds each employee to the strictest confidence of proprietary information, technical data, trade secrets so on and so forth.
The NDA also states that upon termination or departure each employee will immediately return to the company all original document electronic or hard copies.
Each physical facility has restricted access to only authorized personnel that are monitored by security guards and cameras.
All visitors must check in with security, sign a NDA, submit to a photograph and be escorted by an employee.
Tesla also used password-protected and firewall-protected networks and servers that are only accessible to current Tesla employee with the proper credentials.
Moral of this story is…
Even high level technology companies has issues with trade secret theft. If your company suspects something like this, immediately hire a computer forensics expert to electronically preserve data of soon to be departing or a departed employee that has already left the company. Enigma Forensics can analyze data that was misappropriated or stolen to help clients recover financial loss.
FBI deputy director David Bowdich said “The sale and scope of the hacking activities sponsored by [Chinese] intelligence services against the US and our international partners is unlike any other threat we’re facing today.”
On July 7th, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a criminal indictment against Chinese cyber-criminals who acted as both self-employed criminals and employees of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).
Their names are Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi both are former classmates and chums. They attended an electrical engineering college in Chengdu, China. Li and Dong worked as a tag team to combine their technical training to hack the computer networks of a wide variety of victims. They included companies engaged in high tech manufacturing; civil, industrial, and medical device engineering. The theft didn’t stop there! They stole and replicated intellectual property and important trade secrets from businesses in the educational, and gaming software development; solar energy; and pharmaceutical sectors. Their stolen booty included information about military satellites and ship to helicopter integration systems, wireless networks, communications systems, high powered microwave systems, laser system technology, counter chemical intelligence, and finally, COVID-19 vaccine bio-development information. They left no stone unturned and literally left their criminal digital fingerprints everywhere.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment includes 27 pages of a long laundry list of cyber-criminal attacks starting from 2015. Li and Dong were elevated to the top of the list when they were recently discovered looking for vulnerabilities of certain biotech and pharmaceutical companies who are researching and developing Coronavirus / COVID-19 vaccines.
Basically, China is using their students as cybercriminals to steal, and copy their way to technological advancement instead of developing their own. How did they gain such vital and important information?
Li and Dong used web shells, particularly one called “China Chopper.” This widely available and easy to use hacking tool provided the attackers with remote access to targeted business networks. They would also run credential-stealing software to grab user names and passwords. By creating easy access into a victim’s systems, they would copy the data they wanted to steal into an encrypted Roshal Archive Compressed file (RAR). Like other archives, the RAR file is a data container storing one or several files in compressed form. Windows Operating Systems has a default setting that allows a folder to be created and stored where the “Recycle Bin” is located, making it almost invisible to system administrators. Li and Dong operated within the “Recycle Bin” and create extensions such as “.jpg” to make those files appear as images. Thus, disguising the stolen data. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) allegedly provided the two with Zero Day hacking tools that could be used to penetrate corporate networks.
Once they stole the data they would bring it back to China and either sell it to the highest bidder or as directed and allegedly provide it to the MSS. After they breached a company they would go back and re-victimize the same company or organization they attacked in the first place. In addition to hacking and extorting U.S. technology companies, the two allegedly attacked messaging platform tools favored by Hong Kong protestors. The attackers appear to have motivations other than pure financial extortion strengthening the DOJ’s position that the attackers are connected to the MSS.
Working from home? Have you been transferring files between work and personal computers? Be aware of the security risks that are out there. Experts talk about how to protect your company’s private data. Where should you start to make sure your remote workforce is secure? Listen to these experts!
Using Your Personal Computer to Work From Home
Let’s face it, these are weird times! Never before have we had the bulk of the country’s work force sheltering-in-place and working from home. We’re going on four months battling the spread of COVID-19. Workers have resigned, been terminated and furloughed and many have sensitive trade secrets loaded on their personal computers. Experts Lee Neubecker and the Data Dive Debbie Reynolds discuss currents situations and different audits they have performed for companies to retrieve intellectual property and company data. Check out this blog with transcripts.
Video Transcripts Follows
Lee Neubecker(LN): Hi, this is Lee Neubecker from Enigma Forensics. And I have Debbie Reynolds, the data diva back on the show from Reynolds consulting. Thanks for being on. Thank you so much for having me Lee. So what are your thoughts about the shift and changes that have happened over the last couple of months with everyone being stuck at home with their computers?
Debbie Reynolds(DR): I think it’s a interesting issue now, because as you know, even before the pandemic, there were people working at home. But now since there’s so many more people at home, it’s bringing up other security risks, especially with devices. And I’m sure you know, you probably explain more of your experience about working especially a forensic with people who are remote. And some of the challenges with those machines, especially, you know, the same people. They’re either working from home, people are getting furloughed or people are losing jobs where they’re, they’re not in the office. But they still have equipment. So I’m curious to see what you think about all that in terms of the device, the equipment, and some of the risks that come with that.
(LN) We’ve had a number of projects happen during this period where workers either have resigned, they’ve been terminated, or they’ve been furloughed, and there’s a need to get the company data back. And sometimes that data is on their personal computers. Other times the data is on a company issued laptop, but there are companies are just starting to get back to work. And there’s a whole host of issues. If you have sensitive trade secrets, and confidential electronic data on an employee’s personal or work computer, and you don’t have physical custody of that, there’s a real risk of that data getting disseminated to a new employer, maybe leaked online to the web, or maybe even you know, someone’s kid at home installs a game that opens up malware that puts those trade secrets at risk.
(DR) You know, we know a lot of people working from home, and a lot of people are using, I think the statistics said, the majority of people, maybe a slight majority, are using their own computers to, you know, tunnel in via VPN or whatever. But we all know that people still, under a lot of circumstances, let’s say they’re printing, or they have a file they want to, you know, leave locally or something. What is your advice from a forensic perspective? ‘Cause we can, we always see a lot of data co mingle together, unfortunately, where the personal and people’s business stuff maybe, you know, together in some way, so what is kind of your advice for people working at home for stuff like that?
(LN) If an employee’s is being asked to work from home, they should ask for a work issued computer.
(LN) Also you should be using a virtual desktop of sorts.
(DR) Right. Yeah, exactly. But you’ve seen I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of situations where you’re asked to do forensic work. And there is a lot of personal stuff, even on a company.
(LN) Yeah, we’ve had situations where people have, despite having work issued computers, they’ve still connected their personal computer up to corporate resources, office 365. I’ve seen situations where there’s drives that are syncing to personal, former employees, personal computers, and even though the accounts are severed, so it can’t continue to sync, then all that data might still reside. So we’re doing audits right now for clients to look for, you know, what devices are synchronizing with corporate data stores, and some of those devices. You know, there really needs to be accounting and audit to match up those devices to ensure that only accounts of active employees are syncing and that those devices are company issued devices, not personal devices because it poses a real risk. It’s a problem that could be preempted by issuing, you know, work equipment, not co mingling work and home stuff.
(DR) Are you seeing problems where people are, let’s say they have a phone. And they have like, for example, let’s say they have an Apple phone and they have a iCloud account. And the phone belongs to the company, but their iCloud account is their own personal account where you have problems getting those passwords.
(LN) Yeah, for the most part, we’ve had compliance and I’ve worked to try to help solve the problem, you know, the employee might have stuff they need. And usually what we’re doing in most cases where we have co mingle data, where we’re giving the employee or former employee the opportunity to put all their personal stuff onto a drive that will then do a search against and then we’ll wipe, wipe, completely wipe, the original device. They’ll sign a certification of sorts, and then they’ll only copy the stuff that they, that they copied off that we verified, didn’t contain trade secrets, and they’ll pull that back down to the computer. But that relies on some level of trust that if the employee or former employee signs, a declaration or affidavit saying that they returned everything that they’re being honest.
(DR) Do you have people that are concerned, especially in the legal field about people doing remote document review, and having sensitive documents viewed on their computers at home?
(LN) Well, I think that’s a legitimate question. And you know, if, if companies are outsourcing document review, they should be asking the provider, provider questions about, you know, how, what steps are you taking to make sure that those endpoint reviewers aren’t using computers that are compromised? In many cases, companies are using independent contractors as their reviewers and they’re not issuing corporate equipment. So that that’s a real risk that the whole ediscovery industry really needs to grapple with, because someone’s going to get burned at some point in time, especially during this, this pandemic with, you know, resources taxed and people working from home.
(DR) I have one more burning question for you, actually. And this is about BYOD. What do you think? Because the pandemic, do you think more companies will start to do more or less, bring your own device things as a result? I think we’re going to see a lot of problems come out of BYOD devices where companies see the problem of losing control of their data. And, at least with the larger companies, I think you’re going to see probably more strict, more strict enforcement of using corporate resources. I mean, there were many companies right before Illinois shut down went into effect they were ordering laptops going running out to, you know, retail stores to quickly grab whatever they could, so they can issue laptops to their employees. And, and so I think you’re going to see, I think you’re going to see a movement away from BYOD in the future.
(LN) I agree with that. I think it’s been a long time coming. I don’t know if you remember when they were first doing this, you know, at first companies were giving people devices, then they decided well we’ll save money will be out BYOD Now it seems like a pain in the neck to deal with it. And it’s all these risk issues. So I really feel that they’re going to start to go back the other way.
(DR) Now, well there’s a cost associated with BYOD. And now people are furloughed and all your sensitive data is on former employees, personal computers. So then you’ve got to hire a forensic expert like me to try to work through to get the data back and to solve that problem, which, you know, it might have been much easier to issue a 500 dollar laptop to employee, then to have them synchronize that ’cause they’re going to pay more than $500 dollars to try to solve the problem of getting their data back. So after we get through this next bump in the business cycle where companies are paying out to have to retrieve their data, I think you’ll see that most CFOs will see it’s smart sense to issue corporate laptops and to block access to BYOD devices. But thanks for the question. It was a good one.
(LN) Thank you. Fascinating. Thank you for sharing.
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Issues when working from home are bubbling up. Are you working from the dining room table on important company information? We discuss the importance of forming a work from home policy.
We have reached a new era of remote business at levels few companies ever planned for. We all know, COVID-19 has driven businesses and their employees to operate from makeshift home offices. As a result, many issues when working from home have been exposed. In some of our past blogs, Enigma Forensics has provided insight to trade secret theft and given direction on how to protect company trade secrets from cyber attacks. In this blog we will address the current issues that have risen since we are all working from home.
First and foremost, the mass exodus from the business office to the home office was done at the flip of a switch. Working from home took many companies by surprise, sending employees home expecting this to be a short period of time. Most companies didn’t have time to prepare a proper security plan. In an effort to offer more accessibility to their employees some companies loosened their security standards to allow faster and more convenient access for employees. Some encouraged employees to use their own personal devices. These procedures have increased the risks that companies will be cyber attacked and offer opportunities for trade secret theft and loss of business confidential information. To lessen these possibilities companies must develop policies that address the risks.
Enigma Forensics suggests creating a work from home policy to inform employees of their obligations. Companies need to communicate how important it is to stay secure and that the future of the company depends on it. Employers must insist each employee maintain a two-factor authentication process to secure sensitive information. Each employer must restrict unauthorized access to company data. In other words, keep the kids off the company’s computer. It’s also imperative to prohibit the use of unauthorized third party cloud storage sites, and to make sure to apply security software to protect company data. Most importantly, no sharing of company devices.
Some more simple procedures companies can implement to protect their end points include:
Ensure endpoints have patch software and security updates applied monthly
Audit and enable Windows Defender or other Antivirus Solutions to protect end points
Ensure computers accessing company data are set to auto lock after five minutes of intactivity
Provide employees with dedicated work only equipment
Audit and ensure satellite workers have a firewall protecting their endpoints from potential attackers
Kids at home with not much to do may be interested in installing the latest video game on your computer which could introduce security vulnerabilities at home.
Enigma Forensics also suggests developing an inventory of what employee has access to which files. Know who is printing confidential information, and identify if family members have access to the same devices. Once all this is mapped out, a risk assessment needs to be conducted. Identify which employees have access to sensitive information should be prioritized and secured appropriately.
Eventually we will all be back working in the office but COVID-19 has exposed the need to increase security and to learn more about how your employees are utilizing company owned devices.
To Learn More About Trade Secret Theft Check out our blog below