Customer Stories

MACOM Uses Code42 to Stop Departing Employee Data Loss

5 min Read

David Chiang

MACOM is truly a great place to work. But, like every company, the unavoidable reality is that people leave. And, like every company, we’re faced with the challenge of making sure our trade secrets — in our case, highly proprietary semi-conductor designs and CAD drawings — don’t leave with them. I am part of a three-person security team, and we are tasked with overseeing around 1,500 employees spread across 50 sites worldwide. Today, I’d like to share how we’re using Code42® Next-Gen Data Loss Protection to tackle the challenge of data loss from departing employees — protecting our most valuable files and protecting our business.

A Better Process for Detecting, Investigating and Responding to Data Loss Risks

About a year ago, we chose to implement Code42’s solution as the foundation of our comprehensive data loss protection strategy. We’re leveraging the solution in a number of ways, but one of the simplest and most valuable use cases is detecting when departing employees put data at risk — and accelerating investigation and response to data loss incidents.

Here’s what a typical workflow looks like with departing employees:

  1. HR Notice: Our HR team understands how we’re trying to focus on the unique data loss risk presented by departing employees. Having their buy-in ensures that HR informs us as soon as an employee gives notice that they’re leaving the company. This kick-starts the entire workflow.
  2. Past Activity Examined: As soon as we know an employee is leaving, we look back at the last 90 days of their file activity to see if they’ve done anything risky.
  3. Employee Added to Watchlist: Going forward, that employee is added to a watchlist within Code42 for enhanced monitoring. We watch their file activity closely for potentially risky data movement.
  4. Activity Alerts for File Movement: Code42 automatically generates activity notifications when an employee on our watchlist exceeds our defined file activity thresholds (moving too many files, moving too much data, moving files in specific ways, etc.).
  5. Forensic Investigation: Once again, since we’re able to track all file activity over the last 90 days, we’re able to rapidly investigate any alerts to assess whether the activity represents a data loss risk.
  6. Response: Our strong partnerships with Legal and HR allow us to quickly bring them in to execute an appropriate response to an identified risk. This also means we’re not left being the bad guys; our staff see us as the brand-value and idea protectors instead of the police.

How Cross-Functional Support Makes Our Security Team Smarter

It wasn’t as hard as you’d think it would be (or I thought it would be) to get to the point that we are at today with our data loss protection program. But it really all started with the security team building partnerships with our line-of-business (LOB) leaders. They helped us identify:

  • Our most valuable and vulnerable files and data: Our semi-conductor designs, our manufacturing CAD drawings, our marketing plans, our customer lists, etc.
  • What normal vs. abnormal file movement looks like: If someone from marketing is using a USB to transfer data, that’s not that unusual — it’s common for collaborative marketing projects. But if an engineer is removing design files or an executive is taking customer lists, it might be risky. We have different alert profiles set up based on the type of employee, because we recognize that “normal” looks different for different types of employees.
  • What action is required: Just as different files constitute different kinds of risk, different risks require different kinds of action. We worked with our LOB leaders to identify what corrective actions should be taken to protect files and prevent damage when a departing employee attempts to take data with them.

Once we had these things figured out, we worked to develop protocols where possible. This standardized our definition of what risk looks like when an employee is leaving — and defines what action should be taken based on the identified risk.

Focusing on Data — Not People

Like all security teams, we’re trying to focus on our biggest risks. But it’s the data — not the people — that we’re watching. Thanks to our LOB partnerships, we know what our most vulnerable and valuable data is. Thanks to Code42, we know where this data lives and we can see how it moves. When we detect that something’s unusual, we have the forensic depth to look closely at files that we detect as having left — so we know immediately if it’s something we need to address.

Moreover, by first narrowing our scope to focus on departing employees, we can more fully leverage this broad and deep file visibility to efficiently and effectively protect our data. And because we have this streamlined process in place, we are able to expand our team’s focus to monitor data in other potentially high-risk situations. We’re able to look more closely — while simultaneously being smarter and more efficient about how we spend our time.

A Rapid Learning Curve

I’ve mentioned that we run a lean security operation. In fact, we only recently added the third member of our security team, hiring a security analyst to help our director of IT security and me in better protecting the company. Our new security analyst came in with very little experience using enterprise data security tools, but he was able to jump in and begin using Code42 almost immediately. He’s taken a very hands-on role in using Code42 to actively protect our data, and it’s expanded what we can do — our capabilities, our use cases, etc. — as a security team.

This experience stands in stark contrast to most legacy data security tools, which are complex, require weeks of training — and years to become really proficient. Using these complex tools is no problem for more seasoned security pros. But most of us are familiar with the increasing shortage of security people — even as data security becomes more high-profile and demand rises. This was a popular topic at Black Hat USA 2019, and the consensus is that we need tools that don’t require extensive training and allow even rookie security analysts to hit the ground running.

Giving Us Confidence to Protect Our Business

Code42 has already proven its value in myriad ways, and our process for monitoring departing employees has already helped us catch risky data movement and take action. Because of successes like these, HR and Legal understand and appreciate the capabilities our security team has — and this fosters a deeper collaborative partnership as we tackle other data security challenges in our organization. Code42 is giving us the confidence to proactively protect our valuable files and data across our global environment, and to take rapid action to protect our business.

David Chiang

David Chiang is an IT systems engineer at MACOM where he focuses on protecting MACOM’s data through organizational growth and digital transformation. Prior to MACOM, David worked in information technology at General Motors, RingCentral, NVIDIA and Maxim Integrated. In his prior roles, David delivered excellent results with integration, deployments and automation.