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I have an idea that if I have programmers under me that it would be better if the company give each of them a [good] laptop on which they can develop conveniently and allow them to take their machine home - whether to continue their work or for further development

It then struck me that the company code could be used against the company - selling a copy of it to potential customers or competitors.

I have read stories of CIA/FBI agents copying sensitive/unauthorized information home and giving them to unauthorized users

Even if they were not allowed to take their machine home, they could come to work with external drives and copy these codes home, modify them, and sell.

How bad can this be for a company? Can it be prevented and how?

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marked as duplicate by gnat, Blrfl, Karl Bielefeldt, Joel Etherton, MichaelT Feb 8 '13 at 15:51

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Does your company have written rules about this? If it is a concern, then you should. –  Michael Feb 8 '13 at 14:48
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They could email the code to themselves now. You need to have written policies, and you need to trust your people. –  Michael Feb 8 '13 at 14:49
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@Michael "OK, I'll implement outgoing mail filters" // "They could memorise the code now" // "OK, I'll... um..." –  AakashM Feb 8 '13 at 14:57
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Do your remployees go on (iternational) flights? Why not use dekstop virtualization....that way your programmers can work from home without any company software on their home computer.(except for the client to connect to your network) –  Pieter B Feb 8 '13 at 15:06
    
On the duplication: I couldn't locate that question when I searched. Thanks for your tolerance. –  tunmise fasipe Feb 8 '13 at 18:31
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

If a developer is going to turn round and sell your code to another company, or sabotage the companies success then they don't need to be able to take code home with them, like you've said they just need an external drive. Even less than that they just need the Internet.

Make sure that the rules about taking code home have been set out, and ensure that the employees contract has some information about what formal measures would be taken against someone going down that route.

When I started my current role I asked if I could take code home, they were a bit unsure at first but just set out ground rules of making sure I'm responsible about it. It means I'm a significantly more productive employee as I can work on my commute, or if I'm sick I can carry on. Benefits outweigh the negatives on it.

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+1 - when your programmers want to steal your code, they will be able to do so, no matter what kind of security policies you throw in their way. When you don't trust your programmers, don't hire them. –  Philipp Feb 8 '13 at 14:57
    
Nice Answer. If an application is well written using the best design practices, it is easier to modify and you won't know it was your application. For instance, a 3 tier application written in WinForms, I could remove the Presentation Layer and put a new one (e.g. Web Forms) and make use of the BLL and DAL verbatim. It would be hard for you to know what's behind that UI... :) –  tunmise fasipe Feb 8 '13 at 18:28
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There is no guaranteed way to ensure security but there are actions you could take that would make security breaches more deliberate. The threat of them selling information already exist.

I would recommend beginning first limiting the use of external media such as USB drives and the CD drive. Also prevent them from using private email accounts and limit them to the corporate client. Also there are monitoring tools that will track what the user does with the PC, which applications they open or install, what protocols they use and where they connect.

It boils down to security and trust; but the risk will always be there whether they work form home or not.

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Monitoring employees - especially without them knowing - can violate privacy laws in some countries. –  Philipp Feb 8 '13 at 14:58
    
Agreed. Understood however that it would be part of the policy. I have recently worked closely with IT security with Fortune 50 company in this area and trust me, they are monitoring. A simple "...all traffic and actions are monitored.." disclaimer is sufficient. The bottom line is hire who you trust. –  Menefee Feb 8 '13 at 15:37
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Did you wonder if you maybe overstate the value of an illegal copy of your sourcecode?

Either you write specialized software for the specific needs of a single customer. Then there will be nobody else who has a use for your software. Your customer is also unlikely to buy a pirated copy from one of your programmers, because then they wouldn't be able to get any more support from you, and that's crucial for individualized software.

Or you write generic software for the masses. When you are a good businessman you will certainly monitor the market, so you will notice when a competitor is advertising a product which is obviously stolen from you. Then you can sue them for copyright violation. As a countermeasure they could try to change your product so much that it isn't recognizable anymore, but that would likely be almost as much work as cloning it from scratch.

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Not every corporation is Apple, with an army of lawyers. For small companies, lawsuits may be proportionally far more expensive to themselves than to the copy cats. Also, different countries have different laws regard who gets to pay the court expenses. And most countries aren't the US, and thus have courts that will tell you to get lost unless an actual crime has been committed. –  user29079 Feb 8 '13 at 15:20
    
+1 "Either you write specialized software for the specific needs of a single customer" - That's what the company I currently work for (and the previous one) does and I don't even see a need to sell their application to someone else because it will never. So they sit in my computer at home like junks but sometimes I use them as reference point –  tunmise fasipe Feb 8 '13 at 18:20
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