Why Employee Monitoring Software Is Essential For Data Security

In everything from compliance audits to device recovery, monitoring software is a must


In an era of high-profile cyber attacks and increasingly strict regulations on data management and corporate transparency, it's never been more important for companies to take data storage and security more seriously. While potential threats of corporate espionage, data theft, and fraud have expanded with technological advancements, defenses against these offenses have become similarly sophisticated. Investing in and deploying employee monitoring software has never been easier, nor has it ever been more essential than it is today.


What Is A Compliance Audit?

Employee monitoring software has countless applications in the workplace, but some specific workplaces have an even more significant need for it. One of those needs is to survive a compliance audit. But, "What is a compliance audit," you ask?

Saying "compliance audit" is a bit like saying "math test." Sure, at their core they're shorthand for something recognizable, but every discipline brings something different to the table. In the same way a geometry test is different from a physics test, a compliance audit within the financial services industry is different from one in the healthcare field. At its most base level, however, there is a throughline. A compliance audit looks to prove that you are adhering to regulatory guidelines; and beyond that, that you have sufficient oversight systems in place in the event of a data breach or fraud case.

In the wake of the Enron Scandal of 2001, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, a corporate oversight bill which set regulatory guidelines for all publicly traded companies (but specifically financial institutions) in an attempt to curb accounting abuses. SOX also applies to private companies, though these provisions are not as strict as its public regulations, mainly they're designed to enforce best practices. The most salient section, Section 404, specifies that a public company needs to provide internal control evaluation and reporting. Basically there needs to be a system in place which confirms the truth of the financial information being reported. There is also a unique provision within SOX that states that any and all electronic communication must be backed up and secured and that there's a disaster recovery plan in place.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), on the other hand, came about in 1996 to deal with the rapid digitization of health records. Title II of the act specifically aims to reduce fraud, increase accountability, and promote standardization within an industry that deals with incredibly sensitive personal information. Health care providers, clearinghouses, and health plans are all subject to HIPAA.

There are a number of other regulatory structures that put companies in the position to undergo compliance audits. PCI DSS and GLBA also look at financial services companies, while other security-based regulatory acts like FISMA and ISO/IEC 27001 are more general in their scope.

The moral of the story is that compliance audits are wide-ranging and affect a number of industries, but at their core they're all a call for oversight and accountability within institutions that deal with sensitive data. They're also a great way to build trust with customers and potential customers alike. Proving compliance with applicable standards mentioned above gives customers confidence in knowing that their data is safe. Also, failure to comply with some of the more sensitive compliance standards can result in heavy government fines.


How Can Employee Monitoring Software Help?

Of all the compliance audits a company can undergo, the best defense to all of them is knowledge and transparency. Think of data as valuable physical property stored in a warehouse. By leaving it unsupervised with no locks on the door, you're inviting thieves (either internal or external) to come in and take it.

Employee monitoring software  is like putting a security camera within that metaphorical warehouse. There is no silver bullet to prevent hackers or to completely curb theft (both intellectual and financial) within a company; neither compliance auditors nor customers expect a total lockdown. Instead, monitoring software can give employers a way to trace computer activity to hold guilty parties accountable in the event of illegal activity.

In the past, employee monitoring software was limited to simple keylogging devices which tracked what employees typed on company-owned devices, or system logging tools which monitored company-wide activity; neither of which truly brought the end user's activity into focus. While these tools were effective in making employees think twice about abusing company property and time, they did little to actually achieve the goals of monitoring software: They didn't protect data or provide an audit trail in the event of a compromise.

Modern-day software is extremely sophisticated and professional; it's designed for dealing with problems head on in a more proactive way. While those old logging systems could show a manager what words were typed or general network activity, current software is capable of using keystrokes as triggers to activate screenshot recording, much like motion activation on a security camera. This software is also able to lock down devices if incorrect passwords are typed too many times. And, if a device is accessing something it shouldn't be authorized to access, IT managers can be immediately alerted and given the ability to lock the computer down or deal with the problem as it's happening. With these kind of controls at their disposal, managers are able to provide detailed audit trails to pinpoint likely culprits in a breach, and stop a problem before it escalates.

By having advanced employee monitoring software at the ready, managers are also able to optimize change management procedures in the event of employee turnover. Statistics show that 59% of employees walk out with company information upon exit. Management software not only helps limit access, but with file tracking and print tracking tools, data can actually be stopped from leaving a company via email, USB, or other data transfer tools.

Old management tools were also a burden to deploy. Either through exhaustive hardware installations, or complicated software management, there was no simple way to monitor and take control of company devices. Today's cloud-based software can be deployed over countless devices with a simple license structure, and it can be installed and active in minutes. And, this software is no longer limited to PCs. By working through a cloud-based system, employee monitoring software can be used to track the activity on PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. With an ever-growing remote workforce, modern-day software makes it possible to keep an eye on all company property and data. In the event of a robbery or a lost device, this software can track its location, as well as remotely wipe data to avoid a compromise.


Have the Audit Survival Tools You Need

Surviving a compliance audit, managing risk, and preventing data loss, regardless of industry, comes down to knowledge. With modern day employee monitoring software, a manager is given the necessary tools he needs to provide proper oversight in the event of a breach, or to stop a breach before it even happens. Having these tools at their disposal makes a strong case in a compliance audit, demonstrates to customers and clients that their data’s secure, and promotes transparency in industries that are constantly under a microscope.