I noticed a couple of stories about ex employees wreaking computer havoc on their ex employers out on the internets today. In the first one, an IT admin fired from “a large IT company” in May was able to remotely login to his ex employer’s network in AUGUST and delete files, shut down servers and otherwise express his displeasure at joining the ranks of the unemployed. Our second contestant was fired from a Texas non profit which coordinates all of the organ transplants in the state. Nice. Hope she needs a liver or something during her 2 year prison stay. In her case, the damage was done the evening of and day after her termination.
Unfortunately, these stories are not that rare. People sometimes do rash, stupid things when they are fired, and the current economy and its attendant lack of new prospects can make such revenge seem more attractive to some people. When IT people pull this kind of stunt, the results can be really expensive – and embarrassing.
So what should companies do to prevent this type of incident?
Have a termination checklist – while your HR folks are breaking the news to the soon to be ex employee, your IT and security staff should be turning off all of their access (physical and logical) to the company. Start by deactivating their access cards and their remote access to the network; if you take care of these two items first, you can avoid most problems later.
Let people in the company know about the departure of their colleague. Be respectful, but get the word out. Simply saying that “So and so has left the firm effective immediately to pursue other opportunities” should do the trick. You might also want to wish them “the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
If the person being terminated is in IT, take extra care. Work with someone who is familiar with their access and the company systems to map out all of the systems that they have access to in advance of the termination. If you are a small business with a one person IT department, it might be worth the expense to bring in a consultant to assist in doing this.
Don’t forget to inform any vendors and service providers that the terminated employee worked with that they are moving on and no longer authorized to act on behalf of the company. If you do this by phone, follow up with a letter.
Taking these few steps can keep YOUR company from being the subject of my Paranoid Prose (or worse yet, a real news outlet that gets read by more than six people).