Protecting Trade Secrets While Working From Home (Reboot)

We’ve all heard the surveys. Over 50 percent of employees admit stealing company information when they leave for a new job.

It’s this “insider threat” that keeps us up at night.

What the studies don’t tell, however, is how many of these employees are acting badly intentionally. In our experience, many employees simply not realize that company information is not theirs to take.

As discussed in a recent article, Employee Data Theft Definition, Examples and Prevention Tips, by Josue Ledesma, employees pose risks to company information for all sorts of reasons. They may be malicious insiders (looking for gain), inside agents (essentially a mole), disgruntled employees, or careless workers.

They may also simply be misinformed.

As a recent article, Your Employees are Taking Your Data, by  (@Code42), observed, “Surprisingly, 72% of knowledge workers think the data they create and manage on the job belongs to them!” Of course, that is wrong. But obviously, something is not getting through.

Remote Work Ups The Risk To Trade Secrets 

Even before Covid, preventing the loss of trade secrets caused by negligent or misinformed employees, much less caused by malicious conduct, was hard enough.

So, when Covid began, we became (more) concerned.

How would companies manage the increased risk to their trade secrets posed by a largely-remote workforce, without the supervision or controls for in-person work. And then of course, there was the Great Resignation, elevating the already-elevated risk — from all threat vectors.

We like to think that most employees, if educated, would do the right thing. That they would protect their employer’s trade secrets and take precautions to avoid unnecessary risks. That they would recognize that the loss of trade secrets hurts not just the company, but everyone who works there.

Training is an important step to achieving that goal and to preventing avoidable misappropriation. And, if litigation becomes necessary, training helps establish that the company took reasonable measures to protect its trade secrets.

Training Made Easy

To help where we could, we came up with the idea of a series of videos to easily and scalably educate people about what trade secrets are, and how to protect them.

The first in the series was Protecting Trade Secrets While Working From Home.

Like many firsts, the video did what it needed to — but left room for improvement. And, with the passage of time, we have learned a lot.

Now two years later, we have reissued our training, Protecting Trade Secrets While Working From Home, with improved recording and additional substance.

The updated training provides employees with quick, easy-to-understand guidelines for how to minimize the risks to trade secrets while they work from a remote location.

And, it comes at a critical time: The need for this type of training has never been so compelling. If you have any doubts, you need only see what happened to Smash My Trash when they used Zoom to discuss their business details.

Additional Tools

While the training is intended as a stand-alone tool, it can also be used effectively in conjunction with a checklist from our earlier post, “A primer and checklist for protecting trade secrets and other legitimate business interests before, during, and after lockdown and stay-at-home orders.”

In addition, like our other practical resources, including our 50-state noncompete survey chart and our Fair Competition Law Basics video series (starting with What is a Trade Secret?), Protecting Trade Secrets While Working From Home is intended as an educational tool and is made available for free.

We are, however, limiting distribution of Protecting Trade Secrets While Working From Home to our clients and, upon request, to select companies.

Please contact me if you would like the link.