The Role of Digital Forensics in Non-Compete Disputes

Any time a company hires a new employee, they risk that individual stealing company information for their own personal gain. Organizations must protect their trade secrets and intellectual property by implementing restrictive covenants such as non-compete clauses. This agreement states that an employee cannot work with one of the company’s competitors or start a similar business for a certain period of time after they leave the company. Having a non-compete agreement in place gives the organization legal grounds to investigate and potentially sue for a violation.

If you fear a former employee is using your company’s intellectual property for a competitive edge, you can turn to a digital forensics team to uncover security violations.

How a Digital Forensics Expert Can Help Navigate a Non-Compete Issue

Digital forensics is used to collect and preserve evidence from digital devices, including computers, smartphones, and cloud-based services. Once collected, the evidence can be used to support claims of a crime or transgression involving information technology.

When companies suspect violations of their non-compete agreements, they often hire a digital forensics expert to perform an investigation. This specialist will then look for signs of data leaks and an employee sharing trade secrets with competitors.

How Digital Forensics Collects Evidence of Non-Compete Violations

In order to seek compensation for a violation of a non-compete clause, the company must prove the employee had malicious intent when sharing company information and deliberately broke the agreement they had made when they first signed on as an employee. A digital forensics team can help a company collect evidence to support claims of non-compete violations.

A digital forensics company will examine a variety of devices, including the company computer the employee used while employed and the employee’s personal devices (though legal permission will need to be granted for personal devices). Once the forensics team has legal access to relevant devices, they will start pulling data, which can include:

  • Data transfers through the employee’s email account
  • Text messages
  • Phone calls
  • Social media posts
  • Browser data
  • Search histories
  • Time-stamped photographs
  • Device history, such as the networks or storage devices it was connected to
  • Company documents shared through web-based storage facilities

Before a digital forensics team can access any of this evidence, the employer must handle the situation carefully to not alter or damage potentially relevant information. They must preserve the employee’s emails, computer hard drives, and electronic devices by following the steps of proper computer forensics evidence collection. By adhering to these steps, the employer can defend against claims of spoliation of evidence.

Act Quickly — Contact Cornerstone Discovery Today

Unfortunately, having a restrictive covenant in place is not always enough to deter employees from sharing and using company secrets for their own career development. Organizations need to be willing to act quickly when they suspect a violation of a non-compete clause. By hiring a digital forensics team and seeking legal recourse, a company shows they are serious about contract breaches, and other employees will be discouraged from divulging secure data.

Are you concerned a former employee has violated your non-compete agreement? Get in touch with Cornerstone Discovery today. We offer digital investigation services as well as e-Discovery services, so we can help you collect all the evidence you need for any legal proceedings.

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