Enterprises have always faced threats from inside and outside of their organizations. Fraud, the theft of intellectual property, embezzlement, and accounting irregularities are just a few of the common perils that can undermine operations and the smooth workflow of an enterprise.
But what has changed is the irreversible trend of remote or hybrid working and its significant impact on corporate investigations. When employees all worked on-site, corporate investigators had a relatively easy time physically handling employees’ devices and accessing their files—but no longer. Now, an estimated 58% of the total U.S. workforce are remote workers, making it daunting for corporate investigators to retrieve these devices.
Second, remote workers are using an assortment of devices to do their work and store company data, such as desktop systems, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and increasingly the cloud too.
Third, and perhaps most troubling, research shows that 33% of U.S. employees use their own personal computers and smartphones to enable remote work, doing business tasks on unsecured devices and networks, instead of on secure, company-issued devices.
Identifying and locating these many devices, searching for relevant data that is key to an investigation, and then culling it into a manageable form is a staggering assignment that can easily hamper and overwhelm even the most skilled investigators.
So, how can technology help companies conduct their own investigations efficiently in this risky new hybrid-remote environment? First, let’s assess the extent of the problem.
6 obstacles to corporate investigations
Corporate investigators have always faced obstacles in their pursuit of the truth, but a remote workforce has exacerbated these difficulties. Among the impediments that can interfere with corporate investigations today:
- Turning over devices: Employees at every level of the corporate hierarchy are often reluctant to surrender their digital devices in order for investigators to examine and collect data, especially if it is the employee’s own personal device. Managers are also wary of turning over devices that could interfere with productivity or significantly disrupt work schedules.
- Protecting privacy: Collecting data without scooping up an employee’s private files unintentionally is a huge challenge. The commingling of personal and business data on the employee’s device—such as emails, videos, pictures, and text messages—makes it nearly impossible to avoid gathering personal data as a result of keyword or date searches.
- Increased use of apps: Research shows that text messages and conversations are used in 95% of investigations as a source of evidence. Yet employees often use apps that are not officially sanctioned by the company to collaborate on business projects. For example, the popular communication platform WhatsApp has no IT structure and no central server to control it—a situation that increases the potential for sensitive or proprietary business information to be compromised.
- Investigation costs: The exorbitant cost and time outlay of sending investigators directly to a remote worker’s location to access their data and do an in-person inspection of their devices. Equally stressful is the logistical nightmare of sending investigative tools to the remote employee, asking them try to retrieve the relevant data themselves, and then return the tools to the investigator promptly.
- Retrieving data from former employees: Getting data from employees who have left the company or trying to locate legacy data that was backed up on the employee’s thumb drive that was tossed in a draw and forgotten. To underscore the problem, 69% of mid-size organizations in North America cited data loss when an employee leaves.
- Adhering to regulations: Complying with the myriad privacy regulations that exist not only in the area where company headquarters are, but also in the state where the remote worker lives and works.
Clearly, the remote working model has upended the traditional corporate investigatory process. Nevertheless, companies still need to conduct their internal investigations in efficient, cost-effective ways that get to the truth and safeguard private employee data.
Solving the remote access problem
I work for a company with a proven track record in providing investigative tools for law enforcement. We are seeing an increasing demand for technology and expertise to meet the unique demands of corporate investigations—most notably with the new remote mobile capabilities for enterprises.
Specifically, companies are looking for enterprise solutions that combine remote computer and remote mobile capabilities to offer a sophisticated battery of tools that meet the needs of today’s tricky, complex, remote working environment. Corporate investigators are finding that the information pertinent to an investigation is often spread across several devices.
Remote mobile collection capabilities let investigators control everything from one place—in effect, a single server that manages the collection process and helps them find the data that is most relevant for the investigation, which is much more powerful than managing that across different platforms. These new capabilities let investigators collect data from both computers and mobile devices without the need for hardware at every endpoint.
Having remote computer and remote mobile collection capabilities also lets investigators develop insights from a variety of data sources to get a rounded, comprehensive view of employee communication and activity. This 360-degree view can not only uncover wrongdoing and provide supporting evidence, but it can also be used to refute questionable claims, exonerate suspected parties, and clear their names.
The ability to view and review data from multiple sources more quickly, streamlines and simplifies the corporate investigation. As does the ability for investigators to do a deep dive into specific activities or recover history from a device. Perhaps the most important and sought after among new remote mobile capabilities is the potential to target specific areas of a drive, a mobile device, or a specific app – allowing investigators to zero in on a targeted collection of essential data to a degree that eliminates the amount of non-business data returned by traditional keyword and date searched, such as private emails from the employee’s personal account.
With an estimated 93% of employees using their personal devices for work purposes, investigators need more sensitive and sophisticated tools to access key data and address privacy concerns at the same time. The lines between work and home, and business and personal devices have irrevocably blurred, today’s CPO must be armed with the tech tools that enable them to retrieve the data they need, wherever it may reside. Remote mobile and remote computer capabilities combined are perfectly suited for the way corporations function and employees do their jobs today.