The number of High Court cases involving the theft of confidential data increased by 25 per cent in 2016, according to commercial law firm EMW, with an increasing number of cases involving staff theft of customer databases and money-spinning financial algorithms.
However, the cases number in the tens rather than the hundreds or thousands - up from 40 in 2015 to 50 in 2016.
EMW suggests that increasing staff turnover could be a key driver. Employees - particularly unscrupulous sales staff - may be tempted to take confidential data, such as client databases, with them when they leave in order to get a competitive advantage with their new employer or a new company they are setting up.
EMW adds that employees now don't just have easier access to confidential business data, but can access it remotely via a range of devices, such as smartphones and online cloud storage platforms. Furthermore, organisations can be slow to withdraw accounts when a member of staff leaves or is made redundant.
The ease with which data can be accessed - from almost anywhere - may also make staff feel more confident about taking confidential data without arousing suspicion.
Some business sectors are particularly at risk, suggested EMW. For example, employees stealing proprietary algorithms is a critical threat in the technology or financial services sectors, while theft of client databases is a major danger in areas which are heavily reliant on client relationships, such as recruitment or estate agents.
EMW highlighted two cases heard in 2017.
In February, Marathon Asset Management LLP, an investment management business won a case against two former employees who had copied and retained files in breach of their contracts of employment.
And in July, OCS Group, an aviation cleaning company, claimed that an employee had sent confidential information to his personal email address. The employee was subsequently jailed for breaching a court order requiring him to keep secret certain details relating to his former employer.
Felix Dodd, a senior solicitor at EMW said: "Data is becoming more and more business-critical - and easier and easier for staff to siphon off when they move on.
"Theft of confidential data has become such a widespread concern for firms in the City that many of them ban their employees from sending work emails to their personal accounts, and some now even disable some functions on their employees' smartphones.
"Bigger businesses should have the systems in place to be able to monitor activity like this effectively, but a lot of smaller businesses might not have the budget or skills to track what their employees are doing with sensitive data."
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