Combating Global Corruption with Digital Forensics: Workplace Harassment

Corruption is a pervasive problem that takes many forms, and digital forensics can play a vital role in combating it, providing investigators with invaluable forms of digital evidence that did not exist just ten or twenty years ago. Even so, corruption remains an enduring challenge for organizations of every stripe—from government agencies to Fortune 500 corporations. This is in no small part because of our natural tendency to focus on external threats to our organizations, while overlooking the threats that come from within.

In the business world, this tendency might manifest in the form of an organization that spends millions each year protecting itself from external threats like IP theft, while failing to develop policies that protect against common internal issues, such as corrupt executives who engage in sexual harassment. Now, on a surface level, IP theft seems like a much bigger problem for businesses than sexual harassment, costing U.S. companies as much as $600 billion per year. U.S. companies spend spend far less on public penalties for cases of sexual harassment and associated liability insurance policies, but these figures don’t capture the true costs of workplace harassment.

When we factor in absences, resignations, low productivity, and other opportunities lost due to harassment in the workplace, some estimates suggest the true costs of this behavior might approach some $2 trillion annually. Regardless, sexual harassment and other workplace violations of its kind are much more common, and far more likely to be a problem for any given business than most common external threats.

Fortunately, digital forensics gives businesses a powerful toolkit for dealing with the issue of workplace sexual harassment. Below, we’ll share some key tips to help you ensure that your company is protected.

Step 1: Getting The Right Policies in Place

Digital forensics can give businesses the power to catch harassers all but red-handed, enabling investigators to find inappropriate photos or messages that can become crucial evidence in such cases. However, from a security perspective, the best approach to dealing with workplace harassers should begin long before the investigation does, and ideally before accusations are made.

The first and most important step is ensuring your business has a robust corporate policy in place that not only details prohibited behavior, but also ensures the company’s right to examine the data on employees’ devices once an allegation has been made. Employee devices—including mobile phones—must be made subject to examination regardless of whether they are Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) or if the company uses a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. The corporate policy should take the form of a corporate handbook that must be signed by all employees, and should be provided upon hiring.

Employers should note that the decision between COPE and BYOD policies is a crucial one. If your employee uses a wholly corporate-owned device, then most mobile device management (MDM) solutions will provide investigators with easy access to all data contained on that device. With BYOD policies, on the other hand, even the most robust MDM solution will only enable access to the container in which official corporate apps reside. This means that it may not be possible to access data stored in third party apps and other channels.

Step 2: Knowing Where to Look

Once an allegation of workplace harassment has been made and an investigation has been initiated, digital forensics software solutions like Oxygen Forensic® Detective can help investigators quickly search through employee data for evidence. Examples of evidence in harassment cases might include inappropriate photos, or more often unwanted messages sent to the accuser.

It’s important to note, however, that important evidence in these cases isn’t just limited to local files, email accounts, and SMS messaging. Some stalkers and harassers will keep photos of their victims in the cloud, for example, so that they can be accessed from anywhere. Perpetrators will also use a variety of third party messaging apps to communicate with their targets, with apps like WhatsApp and Telegram conferring an added layer of security through end-to-end encryption.

It’s vital that investigators look in these places as well. Luckily, tools like Oxygen Forensic® Cloud Extractor enable investigators to easily pull data from cloud services, and the latest version of Oxygen Forensic® Detective includes enhanced support for encrypted communications apps.

The Fight Against Corruption Starts At Home

Workplace harassment is one of the most insidious forms of corruption—one with pervasive, devastating effects that can cost businesses a great deal more than the dollar amounts associated with traditional legal fees and settlements. A comprehensive employee policy and effective digital forensics solution are the first steps in ensuring that your company has the tools it needs to protect itself.

To ensure your business has the tools it needs, and to find out if Oxygen Forensic® Detective is the right solution for you, click here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @oxygenforensic.

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