Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » It's 9 to 5: Are Your Personal ...
It's 9 to 5: Are Your Personal Data Safe?

It's 9 to 5: Are Your Personal Data Safe?

Employers keep so much information on their workers, and there are so many ways this personal information can be compromised. Consider these instances of private and government entities reporting losses of employee data:

  • A hardworking employee at the US Department of Veteran Affairs takes home a laptop containing the unencrypted Social Security numbers of millions of veterans and active-duty service men and women. He loses that laptop (and with it, his job) when a burglar strikes.
  • An Equifax employee's company laptop containing employee Social Security numbers was stolen from a train.
  • Personal information on retired employees of grocery retailer Royal Ahold NV (owner of Stop & Shop and other supermarkets), managed by data outsourcer EDS, was compromised when a laptop was stolen from or lost by an EDS worker.

What's notable is that each of these examples involves large organizations whose handling of valuable data is at the core of their business, and the list is limited just to lost or stolen laptop computers. Just think of all the other means by which personal data can be compromised.

Blame the Person or the Company?

Who's to blame for companies' loss of personal data on their workers? While corporations often portray an individual employee as the culprit, worker advocates come down hard on the employers.

"If the employer has proper data security, the employee wouldn't have been able to violate company policy," says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

"I'm less inclined to point the finger at the employee," says Beth Givens, director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego. "It really is the employer's responsibility. My guess is that very few workplaces are doing a good job protecting sensitive employee data."

But achieving 100 percent security for all sensitive employee data in all circumstances is very difficult. "Always assume that no matter how hard you try, your controls will fail," says Kawika Daguio, direct of Northeastern University's Information Assurance Program in Boston.

Still, as California's SB 1386 law and other states' laws force companies to notify affected parties of data loss, employees can take the high -- and steep -- road of advocating for themselves, their coworkers and their reports. "It's tough to ask your boss challenging questions, but a responsible boss wouldn't take offense," says Maltby.

Technology Offers Only a Partial Solution

There are many technological responses to threats to sensitive data, whether the information is about employees, finances or trade secrets. Passwords are considered scant protection, strong encryption of data is much better, and leading-edge techniques like biometric user authentication are on the upswing.

But it's neither easy nor cheap to protect diverse data in numerous computers systems running a myriad of software across a vast corporate network whose edges are not always well-defined.

"There's not a single system that implements the appropriate technology to encrypt all sensitive data," says Jeff Montgomery, product manager of data protection solutions at nCipher in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

Workers urging their employers to improve protection of their data can begin with what matters most to them. "The number-one threat is employees' medical information," says Daguio. "The leakage of sensitive medical data can be catastrophic; it can destroy relationships and career opportunities."

Always Consider the Human Factor

Employer efforts often fall short even after they've hooked up the data-protection hardware and software. "What employers do well is follow rules and buy expensive technology," said Daguio. "What they do poorly is train everyone and set expectations."

Employees can help reality-test plans for securing data by consistently pointing out unrealistic assumptions about how humans -- even devoted professionals -- behave. "Security failures typically occur around a non-standard event," like a laptop going home without authorization or a new employee borrowing a password, says Chaz Popovich, vice president of OSI Technologies in Hauppauge, New York.

Workers can also question the bureaucratic underpinnings of company policies on employee data. "Individual employees should be asking, ‘Are the policies really adequate, or are they just convenient?'" says Gordon Eubanks, a board member of Oakley Networks and former CEO of computer security firm Symantec.

Because all data-protection schemes are fallible, workers should ask what the company will do in case of a breach. "If there's no plan in place, the information will continue to leak out," says Daguio. "People could lie, and put their companies at risk."

If these questions don't sway management, employees can put electoral muscle behind government intervention. "Things are not likely to get better unless legal protections are improved," says Maltby.

Latest Jobs

American Council on Exercise
Posted: 06/30/2015
San Diego, CA, 92123
Prestige Staffing
Posted: 06/30/2015
Austin, TX
Synchrony Financial
Posted: 06/30/2015
Alpharetta, GA, 30005
Posted: 06/30/2015
Sarasota, FL, 34232
Posted: 06/30/2015
Robertsdale, AL, 36567

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.12.0.54-309