Sometimes in life, we have to do hard things. One of those things is letting go or saying goodbye to an employee. If you’ve found yourself in this position, it’s understandable to be uncomfortable about the idea of firing someone. But, business is business and sometimes things just don’t work out. 

In an effort to not be a total downer, it’s important to remember that there are silver linings to these awkward workplace situations! Terminating the wrong IT employee opens you up to finding the right worker who might be a better fit for your company. And, it creates an opportunity for your former employee to find a job that’s better suited for their unique skillset and personality traits. 

But in the midst of your discomfort or feelings of sadness in saying goodbye to a team member, especially an IT employee, you can’t forget to properly secure your systems. This is essential because you never really know how an employee is feeling when they walk away from a job. So, you must do your part to protect your company’s assets and systems. 

Use this IT employee termination checklist to secure and clean up your systems after an IT employee flies the coop. 

Why should I use an employee termination checklist? 

Before we get into the details of what to include on your employee termination checklist, let’s discuss why it’s essential to use one. Firstly, insider threats could cost your company. The 2020 Ponemon Institute Cost of Insider Threats Report found that the average global cost of insider threats rose by 31% in two years to $11.45 million. 

That’s a pretty alarmingly high percentage that we shouldn’t take lightly. You might be thinking you have time to get things settled once an employee leaves, but in reality, you shouldn’t waste any time. In the event there is an incident, the study states the average time it takes to contain one is 77 days, costing an organization an average of $13.71 million. We don’t want that for you! 

What exactly is an insider threat? According to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), “An insider threat is generally defined as a current or former employee, contractor or other business partner who has or had authorized access to an organization’s network, system or data and intentionally misused that access to negatively affect the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the organization’s information or information systems.”

According to TechRepublic, a 2017 study showed that 20% of organizations surveyed had experienced data breaches by ex-employees. And another 48% said they were aware former employees still had access to the corporate network. 

Number aside, most people have either experienced a bad work relationship, been let go, or know someone who has. It hurts to be in this situation. The emotions one feels in these scenarios can run the gamut, much to the surprise of the individual or the people around them. They might feel sad, angry, or even blindsided. The feelings are undoubtedly uncomfortable and can lead people to act in ways we couldn’t have predicted previously. 

These feelings and the actions people might take are even more important to be mindful of when dealing with former employees who have access to IT systems or marketing accounts.  Why? Because, in an act of revenge, they can do a bit more damage to the company or the company’s image than someone in another department could. 

How can I spot a potential insider threat? 

The best way to prevent a threat from happening is to educate yourself on signs of disgruntled employees. This way, you can be on the lookout for signs that someone may end up being a potential threat in the future. The NCCIC, which works under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, released a list of ways to spot someone who may eventually become an insider threat. The characteristics listed include:   

  • Introversion 
  • Greed/ financial need 
  • Vulnerability to blackmail 
  • Compulsive and destructive behavior 
  • Rebellious, passive-aggressive 
  • Ethical “flexibility” 
  • Reduced loyalty 
  • Entitlement – narcissism (ego/self-image)
  • Minimizing their mistakes or faults 
  • Inability to assume responsibility for their actions 
  • Intolerance of criticism 
  • Self-perceived value exceeds their performance 
  • Lack of empathy 
  • A pattern of frustration and disappointment 
  • History of managing crises ineffectively

What should I put on my employee termination checklist? 

Now that you’re sold on why it’s important to have a dedicated process when terminating IT employees, let’s get started on creating your employee termination checklist. Most of the items on this list focus on keeping your company’s data safe and secure while ensuring the business can continue to run without disruptions. Here are some of the essentials to include when you’re building your own unique termination process. 

Back up the former employee’s hard drive: For whatever reason, the time this employee has spent with your company has come to an end. But, they still likely provided a lot of value and good work while working for you. Saving their work, communications with clients and anything else that might be stored on their hard drive is essential. These things will all come in handy when your newest hire starts the job and will give them a jumping-off point to start the role with. 

Collect hardware: You’ll want to be sure you have all of the physical elements that could cause security breaches should they remain in the former employee’s possession. You should collect any computers, laptops, monitors, phones, tablets, keys, ID cards, security tokens, magnetic swipe cards, and hard drives. This will keep company documents from getting out into the world once the employee leaves.  

Physical Security Access: While the chances of it actually happening are low, disgruntled employees may feel vengeful and do something scary in person. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your physical office space is secure by revoking their access. This means taking back any keys or key fobs, changing any building passcodes, and making sure any security staff knows not to give the former employee access to the building…which brings us to our next point.

Notify staff and clients: All relevant personnel and clients should be notified immediately of a staff member’s exit from the company. This is critical to avoid confusion on the part of your other employees and clients. It will keep current employees from attempting to send tasks to the former employee or to get in contact with them about classified work-related subjects. 

Cease VPN and remote access: Turning off VPN and remote access helps ensure your former IT employee can no longer access any documents or systems from an external device. This is another crucial task to complete in order to prevent documentation from being corrupted, stolen, deleted, or otherwise tampered with. It also helps prevent the former IT employee from using the employee network for malicious purposes.   

Change passwords: Be sure to change any shared passwords the former employee may have had access to. This includes any internal platforms, of course. But, it also means changing passwords on third-party services like Dropbox, SurveyMonkey, OneLogin, and G-Suite. Finally, you need to change passwords on company social media accounts and be certain to clear their name from the company website and any other marketing materials. This prevents a disgruntled former employee from doing something like gaining access to the platform or service and changing the password themselves. 

Disable company email and phone accounts: Disabling email, phone, and any other accounts tied to the company in this person’s name will ensure they aren’t able to send any correspondence through the company. This is especially important in companies where the employee may have worked one-on-one with clients.  

Use SmartFile to keep your business safe 

SmartFile’s unique software is set up to keep your business safe, no matter the threats you might face. It’s easy to change permissions and access to make sure that your ex-IT employee no longer has access to anything stored in SmartFile. 

SmartFile provides secure file sharing and transfer solutions for businesses and enterprises. We serve businesses across all sizes and sectors including government, legal, universities, pharma, energy, construction, banking, healthcare, agencies, and manufacturing. You can rely on SmartFile to fulfill your file sharing, FTP hosting and storage compliance needs. 

SmartFile balances user and IT features to provide security and ease of use. When an employee leaves your office, you can easily make across the board or individual security changes to permissions and user accounts. This makes it easy to onboard and offboard IT professionals at your company without jeopardizing the security of your files. 

SmartFile gives you granular user access with custom file permissions. You’re offered intricate ways to control access in addition to ease of use and flexibility with SmartFile’s permissions, access and groups. 

You can also set permissions based on the type of role an employee has. Jonathan Wood of Milwaukee Direct shared that he liked how SmartFile gives different levels of access, so he can give his project managers different access than his graphic designers and vice versa. A custom UI also allows you to match your company’s SmartFile account with your existing brand guidelines. 

Finally, SmartFile’s audit trail feature can help you keep track of your files once an employee leaves your service. Now, it’s easier than ever to notice an insider threat so you can stop it as early as possible. The audit trail will show you file details such as: 

  • User Access
  • Connection Method
  • Location and IP Addresses
  • Time and Date Stamps
  • Shared Link Data
  • Folder and File Actions

Ready to protect your data with SmartFile? Learn more about all of the features that can help you securely store your files.

Give SmartFile a try for free today – no credit card required!

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About John Hurley

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of SmartFile. My role is to find the right people and give them the right tools and resources needed to grow both professionally and personally.

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