Dear Crabby, 

I’m the accounting and credit manager at a mid-sized shipping company and over the past few months, almost all the staff are working from home. In view of keeping safe and well, working remotely has been both a blessing and a curse. 

I have three teenage boys, 17,15, and 14 who are constantly on the move. Before the pandemic brought about the new cohabitating arrangement, they were very busy with all of their school and sports activities. Now unfortunately, we see each other a lot and living in a very small house, the only place where I felt I was able to do my work was at the kitchen table. Big mistake. One month ago, I had to suddenly go outside leaving my computer with a lot of customer personal data front and center on the screen. 

When I walked back inside after about 20 minutes, I caught my oldest son looking at the screen and asked him, “What on earth are you doing?” He replied that he was just curious. I told him not to look at my computer screen because all of the information was confidential and going forward, to kindly respect my small working space. 

Two weeks later, through a series of events that I can’t go into here, it was brought to my attention that my son tried to use the personal data of a 24-year old debtor that he had quickly noted down from my computer to obtain a driver’s license. His goal was to use the driver’s license as an I.D. to go into the bars once the pandemic’s restrictions were lifted. In discovering this, I was absolutely livid on so many levels. Not only did we violate the company’s data security protocols and this debtor’s personal information, I’m mad that my son was planning to go drinking illegally. What a mess. 

I still haven’t told my employer about this horrible data breach and I’m afraid of what their reaction will be. As a single parent, I need this job and I’m just feeling so horribly lost and up a creek without a paddle. What should I do?

Data Breach in Tallahassee

Dear Data Breach, 

There’s no question that this is a real pickle and I’m sorry to hear it. As you well understand, especially in this very litigious environment, maintaining confidential customer/debtor information is absolutely imperative. Here are my thoughts. 

1) It wasn’t your fault that your son was nosey, and now worse, his actions have put your household into financial and legal jeopardy. Unfortunately, many teenagers don’t think of these things and may only view their mischievousness as “cool.”

2) As difficult as it will be, set up a Skype meeting to tell your manager. I have no idea about your relationship and many other factors that could give you support in this situation, but I’m thinking that if they find out on their own about this data breach, then surely you could be in serious trouble.

3) I also don’t know about your home situation and don’t want to make a judgment about using the kitchen as your office, which by default can often be as chaotic as Grand Central Station. But is it possible to work in your bedroom or any other space where there’s privacy and security, especially where you can lock the door when you leave? Hopefully, this awful experience has forced you to set up a private and secure working area in your home. 

4) Many companies that have asked their employees to suddenly work at home are probably having very similar issues. Confidential and proprietary data and information is not being kept secure. Like yourself, employees may have to attend to a crying child or answer an emergency call in which their attention is suddenly drawn away from their workstation. To minimize the data breach risk, many companies have installed software that senses when the user is away for more than a couple of minutes, in which the computer reverts to a login page status. This is one way that they are trying to maintain company and customer data confidentiality while letting their staff access and work with the data from their homes. 

I hope the above gives you some guidance. Please let me know what happens. 

Crabby


Dear Crabby is a credit and collection advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments (nseiverd@cmiweb.com) are most welcome!

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