Organizations develop restrictive covenants designed to protect the company’s trade secrets and intellectual property if a former employee decides to leave for a competitor. These restrictive covenants can take the form of a noncompete clause, non-disclosure agreement or even a non-recruitment policy.
Whether an employee leaves to start a career at a competitor or quits to start his or her own competing organization, the company will fear the use of intellectual property to gain a competitive edge. As organizations have moved to a model that embraces digital storage and remote access, the research needed to uncover security violations has changed. The field of digital forensics has grown to encompass numerous methods of evidence collection to uncover a violation of the noncompete clause. Common examples of this type of evidence can include:
- Digital communications: An employee has numerous communication methods at his or her disposal. From email and instant messaging to social media interactions and direct messaging, evidence might show that an employee sent sensitive material or agreed to provide certain data.
- Physical device history: A digital forensics team can track down the device history in terms of what networks the employee connected the laptop to, who had logged in at what times and any alterations made to data stored on the computer. Additionally, certain programs allow an organization to track the physical location of the company laptop through GPS monitoring.
- Data transference: Digital forensics can also uncover whether an employee moved sensitive files from the protection of the computer. From the simple examination of email attachments to determining what data the employee loaded onto a disk or a portable storage device, an employee can use numerous methods of data transference to remove sensitive information.
No matter the industry or the size of the organization, a company should take steps to protect their intellectual property. From restrictive covenants to physical security, the company’s assets must be protected when an employee leaves. It is wise to work with an experienced attorney to ensure your information is protected. When litigation becomes a reality, however, skilled legal guidance is crucial.