Computershare, the investor services firm, has filed suit against a former employee it charges with making off with thousands of pages of proprietary company documents, including information on shareholder names, account numbers and financial holdings.
The company warned that the data, which was illegally copied from the former employee’s company laptop to a USB drive, which was subsequently lost, could put the “privacy and financial record of millions of shareholders” at risk.
The complaint, filed in February in Federal Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that Kathyann Pace violated the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) when she absconded with the data after tendering her resignation from Computershare in September, 2010.
Pace, a Massachusetts resident who worked as an internal risk management auditor in Computershare’s Canton, Massachusetts office, failed to surrender her company-owned laptop for close to a month following her resignation, Computershare ordered a forensic examination of the device once it was returned.
The forensic examination revealed that Pace had copied thousands of pages of sensitive information to two portable USB drives shortly before the laptop was returned. The sensitive data included documents detailing computershare’s business and operational processes for the company’s U.S. business lines, descriptions of internal risk management efforts and controls, audit findings and resolutions, as well as e-mail messages including attachments with personal information on an unknown number of Computershare customers.
The lawsuit was initially filed to force Pace to return the stolen data. However, soon after filing the suit, Pace told her former employer that she could not locate the USB drives she had copied the data onto.
Ultimately the company was able to examine Pace’s personal electronic devices, including another USB drive and an iMac. That investigation determined that she had, indeed, copied the sensitive data to her iMac and the USB drive, and had used the USB drives she claimed to have lost just a day before she signed an affidavit claiming she could not locate them. In March, 2011, Computershare purged the two devices of company data and filed an amended civil complaint seeking recovery of legal fees and including a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent Pace from using or disclosing the information stored on those drives, given that Computershare couldn’t prove that Pace did not still possess them.
Computershare was unable to respond to requests for comment.
Recent studies have found that companies are frequently unable to spot or stop malicious insiders from making off with sensitive information. The U.S. Department of Defense is sponsoring research into the question of rogue insiders in the hope of developing technology to spot the workings of malicious insiders.