Czech firms face increasing problems from both leaked information and whistle blowers

The WikiLeaks deluge of leaked US diplomatic cables has underlined the dangers of information escaping from discontented employees. In the Czech Republic, dismissed or unhappy workers are increasingly blowing the whistle on their bosses, or going straight out of the door armed with sensitive or compromising data.

The Wikileaks flood of US diplomatic secrets has been widely pinned on one insider, a US military intelligence officer. Today, as never before, information can be easily downloaded onto a disc or data stick. The leak seems to prove the point that the enemy within can be much more dangerous than the one without. And that seems to hold true of the Czech corporate world as well, with companies increasingly faced with employees stealing sensitive data or blowing the whistle on them to the authorities.

Shipping your bosses for using pirated software is one increasingly used route taken by workers, as Jan Hlaváč the spokesman of the local branch of the anti-piracy lobby, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) describes.

Jan Hlaváč
“It is a trend of the past three or four years and it has become very popular with employees as a way of taking revenge on their bosses in the past year or so. Especially when the financial crisis was in full swing and many employees were dismissed or were told they would have to quit their jobs, sometimes they decided they would pass information on the BSA that the company they worked for was using illegal software hoping that we would press charges or arrange a police raid or so on.”

Mr. Hlaváč says tip-offs from disgruntled employees now account for around 40 percent of his group’s incoming information, with a 10 percentage point increase in that whistle blowing over the last year. Rival companies are the source of around 50 percent of the information.

Employees have also adopted a more direct approach by walking out the door with confidential company information, which they use to help set up their own company, sell to the competition, or blackmail their former employer. Such information can be strategic plans, technical plans or lists of customers.

According to one survey, around three quarters of Czech firms employing less than 150 people say they have been victims of stolen databases or confidential information over the past two years.

Companies often find they are virtually powerless to seek redress for stolen information if a worker is not caught red-handed. Police often lack computer and software experts, cannot always get search warrants, and face problems proving that databases clearly come from the former employer. Light fingered former employees are often quick to adapt information so that the trail back to the former workplace becomes blurred.

Firms also face the headache that software for monitoring computer use which could sound the alarm about leaks of information is banned because of personal date protection laws.