back to article Exiting workers more likely to steal data than stationery

Many workers have confessed they would be prepared to swipe data from their ex-employers when they changed jobs. An online poll of 1,594 full and part-time workers and contractors in the US and UK found that around a quarter (29 per cent in the US and 23 per cent in the UK) would steal customer lists and other sensitive data …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    For me

    it's always been MSDN keys.... allegedly.

    AC for obvious reasons!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Risk and benefit not morals

    I would not consider nicking a stapler because of the risk of losing my reputation is not worth the value of a stapler. A solid gold stapler would have value, but taking one is not a risk - I would expect some to notice when a valueable object goes missing. Taking a copy of data has a much lower risk of getting caught. The down side is the sale: give enough evidence to show it is genuine and you also give enough evidence to be blackmailed. I have had some good opportunities for crime, but I can earn more more easily being honest.

    1. gollux

      We've always...

      viewed potential hires who offered this kind of information with distrust. If they stole from their previous employer, they would do the same to us. It's like the NDA thing, the incoming person can poison your ability to do business and may embroil you in costly lawsuits. I can think of three people we did not hire who brought exactly what was deserved on the companies who turned a blind eye to the dishonesty and employed them.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Back in the day before such things as enterprise license were widely used, IT departments that I came in contact with had whole rooms full of installation disks for the software they were using

    Apparently these were very easy to slip into a bag or coat pocket

  4. Anonymous Coward


    No way! Not even if I was heading to another world/planet/plane of existence. It's simply not worth it, not unless you're getting a job in the cabinet I suppose, in which case being a rich, lying, cheating dirt-bag with no scruples is a pre-requisite!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still have a copy

    of the backup tapes from my last job

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Creation and Ownership are not the same

    I imagine a lot of people are tempted to take the data they created - after all they probably feel a sense of ownership over something they created, even if they're wrong.

    When I left my last job I copied the source code to the application I (wholly) wrote for them, thinking of it as my baby, as well as all the things I learnt that I may need to look up in my new employ. I've never once referred back to that code since then, making the effort somewhat wasted.

    But even tho I created that app, I really know I shouldn't have taken the code. It might have been my "baby", but I put it up for adoption the moment I signed my contract of employment.

    It's not something i'd bother doing again - tho ironically not because its wrong, but because it was a complete waste of time in the end!

  7. goggleeyedsalmon


    Sounds to me like what people are willing to steal is directly proportional to the chance of getting caught.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No, stop it... your killing me.


    Having managed purchasing stationary for a medium sized company (~150 employees) I can definitively state from personal experience that the number of people prepared to take pens, post it's etc. home with them day to day is more than that. When people leave jobs? Forget it. I always had to order new stationary for a new starter, even if there theoretically was a full set from the departing staff member.

    1. Annwyn

      From what I've seen...

      ... it's not so much a case of the departing employee taking the stationery with them. The speed with which other staff swooped in to clean out an empty desk has always amazed me, especially as the stationery store is not locked.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    customer data

    I used to work for a credit card company (one that no longer exists, however I'm still staying anonymous). We used to get regular reports of shady characters approaching our staff as they left work, offering money in return for customers' card details.

    The call centre staff weren't exactly hugely paid, so it was no surprise that every now and then one would get caught giving in to temptation. We tended to find out about it when our IT department were asked by the internal fraud team for details of accounts that a specific person had accessed. This was usually followed by summary dismissal of that person and the involvement of the local constabulary.

    What surprised me was not that it happened, but that it didn't happen more often - it would have been a piece of piss to get hold of data and smuggle it out.

    1. Ragarath

      The Question

      Was the shady person a plant?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a 'moral grey area'

    Given that management is well known for saying one thing and doing another, and tells many many porkies (you can't have any pay rises or perks as due to the economy we are making very little profit and we are seeing far fewer orders than normal... followed *weeks* later by a new extension, old computers replaced with shiny new ones, a new round of laptops for people that are paid rather more than me and seem to do little other than Powerpoint and Solitaire, plus numerous other things), yeah, I could understand stuff walking out the door. Forget about morals, the word you want is "morale", and there isn't any.

    For me, personally, I would absolutely peek at merger/salary plans if they were stupid enough to leave that sort of thing around, if only to get a heads up on whether or not to start printing off my CV.

    Sadly the only things they leave scattered around (and not shredded) are confidential R&D documents, and I don't give a crap about any of that. Neither, apparently, do they, for I've seen a stack of papers marked "confidential" with an actual big red stamp, piled face down, so we can use the back of the sheet as "scrap paper". WTF? Are they so tight/stupid this seems like a good idea? Other delights of so-called scrap paper - records of the daily who-clocked-in-when, and also stuff like who gets state work benefits (leaking name, address, SSN, and other stuff).

    AC, because all my stats are printed out on the third sheet down on the left.

    1. Blue eyed boy

      The merger who never was

      > For me, personally, I would absolutely peek at merger/salary plans if they

      > were stupid enough to leave that sort of thing around, if only to get a heads

      > up on whether or not to start printing off my CV.

      Could well be a plant, to see which office the gossip is emerging from.

      When I was a sweet, pure, innocent young graduate looking for a job, the careers people warned us not to put too much hope in anonymous agency job ads, since "our client" could well be a firm checking up on which members of staff might be seeking alternative employment.

      My coat never was, how can I get it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Blue eyed boy

        "Could well be a plant, to see which office the gossip is emerging from."

        Good point, but it would assume that I would see the hot juicy details and go blab to all. Not a chance! The more people I tell, the less beneficial it is to know. So I keep mouth shut and reink the printer..

  11. Mike Hanna

    Lies, damned lies and statistics

    "The survey, commissioned by identity management firm SailPoint, and run by Harrison interactive, found mixed opinions about whether or not the recession has increased the temptation for workers to steal. Around 45 per cent of US respondents and a similar 48 per cent in the UK reckoned economic hard times have had no effect."

    Does that mean 55% (52%) of people are now more likely to thieve from work and stick it on eBay?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is no comparison

    If I take a stapler, I am depriving the company of the stapler. It's probably theft.

    If I take a copy of some data, the company loses nothing. It's definitely not theft.

    I would prefer it if people did distinguish these two things because they're very different.

    I have taken data away with me from a previous job, but I never misused it for anything, and I never misused any of the confidential information in my head, either.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      copying data without permision is theft in the eyes of the law

      you say that if you copy the data the company looses nothing. This is wrong. It looses exclusivity on that data. It belonged to that company and you had no right to copy it. The losses come from what you are going to do with that data. And by the way the law makes no difference between stealing tangible goods and intangible goods like software or data. I'd really like to see how you explain a judge that you copying some credit card details is not theft.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No it isn't.

        > copying data without permission is theft in the eyes of the law

        No it isn't. Well, not in England anyway. The law makes a clear difference between stealing tangible goods and copying confidential information. See for example Oxford v Moss '79

        Copying credit card details is not theft. It is, however, likely to be fraud if those details are ever dishonestly used.

  13. JaitcH

    Employment contracts are essential for employees and employers

    Employment contracts can be used to define various aspects of employment including copyright and patent ownership/recognition.

    Sales people can be a sticky one. Often a sales position remuneration recognises customer names brought with the incoming sales person. Whose property was it before being introduced, whose property y is it whilst the sales person is employed and. most importantly, who retains it/uses it on separation?

    I have designed printed circuits and they are like giving birth and I always retain copies, simply because I designed them. I also built a very simple main-frame printer tester, on my own time and at my own expense. There were two copies: one was mine and the I built for an after market repair facility owned by a friend. When I left, the employer tried to acquire it only there were no schematics and the integrated circuit identities were destroyed by the epoxy I moulded the tester in.

    I also worked for a credit card transaction terminal manufacturer and they tried to get a non-disclosure agreement signed after I had resigned.

    All these situations could have been easily defined in an employment agreements which are, a little, like prenuptial agreements.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new

    I worked for a company that poached a fairly senior manager - he brought with him quite a lot of data about what his previous company were planning to do - worth a lot of cash for the info, and I know exactly how much the guy was paid because I saw the specific details (6 figures).

    Around 3 months later he disappeared (he had left to go to another competitor) and had taken a load of our data with him. It appeared he did this a couple more times - he could then afford to take early retirement, and the last I heard, was living out in the Costas.

    The MD was pretty upset and demanded that I do something to prevent it happening again. He didn't take it too kindly when I pointed out that he had encouraged the guy to come to us in the first place and knew full well what was going on and if he didn't think it would happen to him, he was pretty naive.

    I'm not there any more, but AC for my own protection in the future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, it's the management consultant business model

      They go from one company to another teaching them how to do some particular task, like set up a phone network, for example. They might call themselves experts teaching "best practice" but what they're really doing is taking knowledge from one company to another and getting paid by both of them.

  15. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    Uh oh

    I work in a nuclear power plant.

    If i steal anything from work you will see my house on Google Earth glowing green

  16. Mr Grumblefish

    Data? What's wrong with the traditional items.

    Two cans of beer.

  17. John Tserkezis

    There IS comparison...

    "If I take a stapler, I am depriving the company of the stapler. It's probably theft.

    If I take a copy of some data, the company loses nothing. It's definitely not theft."

    Oh but it can be. If the company spends two years work on obtaining, collating, calculating or otherwise collecting that data (intellectual property) and you either hand it out to a competitor, (or they get the data via other means), you've saved the competitor two years worth of work.

    This also means the company where the data originated, now has lost any lead they had compared to their competitors. The market might start buying from the competitors, rather than the origin.

    Putting a number on this can vary widely, depending on circumstances and who you're dealing with, this could translate to millions. Or it might go no-where. Either way, I assure you, if you get caught, you will NOT be the one making the determination that it cost no-one anything.

    Personally, all the bits and bytes in the world can't staple my pages together, so, in my case, thanks, I'll just take the stapler.

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