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Ask Jack: Does Personal Email Use Create A Cyber Risk At Work?

By Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

We have several employees who use multiple email addresses for work. Is that a data risk?


Yes, there is a data risk.

When organization email addresses are used, you can track employee email communications. If an employee uses an email address outside your organization, like a personal email address, it makes communications more difficult to track, and that makes your organization vulnerable.

For example, Jim has an organizational email address, but you also know Jim has uses his personal email address at work. Jim's personal email address creates a risk if Jim leaves your organization. For instance, if, on the day of his departure, Jim's activity shows he uploaded several documents onto his computer, Jim may have sent the documents to himself or to someone else - using his personal email address.

In March 2022, Qualcomm sued a former engineer for allegedly uploading trade secrets to his personal email address and cloud accounts just before accepting a job with a competitor. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/story/2022-03-17/qualcomm-files-trade-secret-lawsuits-against-two-former-employees-who-left-to-work-for-competitors

The final takeaway is that your communication policy should require employees to use only their work email address to conduct business communications. Make it a serious offense to transfer trade secrets for personal gain.

Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to ask@mccalmon.com. Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.


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