Quitting your job? Here’s what you need to do before returning a company computer
THE WASHINGTON POST – You’ve decided to quit your current job and it’s time to hand in the devices you use at work. But what to do first? Copy all personal documents and delete them? Factory reset to ensure no personal data remains? Or return the devices as they are, with photos of your two-year-old and free medical appointments?
These are questions that often arise to experts when changing jobs, which has become more frequent in recent years. This has become quite complicated as the professional and personal lives of many workers – their data – have become intertwined during the pandemic with new flexible work models. But having an accurate sense of what’s yours and what’s not and how best to transfer your data can be the difference between a smooth exit and one that could lead to internal investigations or even civil or criminal charges.
Legal, software and workplace security experts have provided some advice to help you with this transition. Look below.
Be careful when transferring contact information
A contact list can be considered a list of your company’s clients, which can be considered confidential information without permission to leave the company. Therefore, it’s always best to check with your employer before exporting contacts from Outlook, Gmail or from your smartphone. Once you’ve done that, search Export in Gmail and Outlook to transfer contacts in a CSV format file, which the other device can easily import. You can also export email and calendar items. Both Android devices and iPhones allow you to export contacts or transfer them directly to some devices.
The same concern applies to seemingly innocent data transfers. For example, you might want to bring a presentation that you’d like to use as a template in the future. But if this presentation contains private company information, you may be in trouble. The same goes for informal emails you might want to take with you or calendar notes that might contain sensitive information.
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“This is one of the easiest ways to catch a cold,” said Dan Wilson, a research analyst and senior director who writes on the digital workplace for consulting firm Gartner. “So make sure you fully understand the context and content of the data.”
Even if you’re taking what you undoubtedly consider yours—perhaps you have personal medical records or family photos on your devices—the act of transferring large amounts of data, deleting and exporting it can trigger a company’s surveillance systems. Wilson said some companies monitor the movement of data by employees who may have access to valuable information, are disgruntled or go to work for competitors. Moving a large amount of data may indicate an unauthorized transfer, even if it is not harmful.
Workers often forget where they might have personal data stored, even though they do their best to control it. For example, you may have downloaded personal files and left them inside Download folder from a laptop or on file folder from your iPhone. You may have pictures on your WhatsApp or text messages. So check any apps and folders where you may have inadvertently stored personal stuff, said Mark Ostrowski, head of engineering at cybersecurity software firm Check Point.
Delete files and login information
if you decide to delete photos or personal documents, keep in mind that the company may already have a copy of everything. Deleting an email probably won’t end the company’s copies. This also applies to things stored on your mobile phone. But Ostrowski said it’s still worth deleting to avoid leaving extra copies on devices. You may want to view and delete the items you have backed up and stored in the cloud.
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“Have a good idea of what you’re going to leave behind,” Ostrowski said. “This is very important.”
Confirm that it is logged out in all applicationsmostly from personal accounts such as Amazon, Gmail or Facebook, and clear your browser history, as well as any information saved for login and payment, Wilson said. Sign out of your Apple ID and turn off feature tracking find mineif enabled using a personal account.
Be very careful when deleting files as it can lead to legal issues. Experts recommend that you do not restore factory settings. Employers often have their own data retention rules, and in some cases it may be legally required to keep certain data for a certain period of time. Therefore, leave the factory reset to your employer.
Attention to forgotten data
Workers should also check for anything they inadvertently retained. Have you ever downloaded a presentation or spreadsheet of customer information to a flash drive or external hard drive so you could work from home? Did you send an email to your personal account with some documents that had confidential source code? All of these can be red flags for employers and can potentially cause problems in your new workplace.
“You don’t have to have a nuclear launch password to get into trouble,” Neuberger said. “At worst, I can file civil or criminal charges against you.”
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The reality is that tracking and distinguishing what belongs to a professional or a company has become complicated. While experts say it’s best to avoid using work devices for anything personal, there will likely be points where it’s hard to tell the difference. And employers are often relatively sympathetic in this matter, experts note. /TRANSLATION BY ROMINO CACIA