We all know that intellectual property is the lifeblood of innovation, but are you doing enough to protect it?
Intellectual property (IP) plays an essential role in innovation, with new ideas perpetuating a successful economy. Information is a significant commodity of any business, of interest to competitors and third parties and has a high profile on a wide scale, particularly shown by recent interest around several foreign national companies.
Some businesses believe that their IP isn’t of much interest to anyone outside of their business and that their competitors aren’t a concern. However, what if the IP was simply harvested via a third-party, who picked it up as part of a wide-scale security breach, and then sold on the dark web or to targeted firms? Even if your IP isn’t of much interest in terms of face value, it causes other issues, including reputational damage. It can also bring significant financial penalties through regulatory breaches.
There are potentially thousands of subversive, third-party entities who want your data and can profit from it, one way or another. This undercuts any success a company may enjoy and may very well damage the future of the business. There is good news, however! You can deploy strategies to protect your IP, and these lessons can be applied across the entire business.
Your ideas are under attack
Step one of this process is understanding the nature of security threats to IP. Technological development and the interconnected nature of the digital world has made IP theft far easier than ever before, especially given that the majority of security breaches that go undetected.
It’s also important to remember information can easily be accessed outside of the “secure” network, such as personal devices connected to corporate systems. Are these devices being continually assessed? Not a day goes by where we don’t see a news story of devices being discovered. Insiders can either intentionally or incidentally breach even the most secure environment.
And then there the common sense approach. Businesses must make sure critical information isn’t being left on printers or simply dropped in a paper bin. Is your secured shred bin secure? We find they rarely are. If you want to breach a company, being on the cleaning staff is an easy way to get access.
Defending against thieves
Both insider and outsider threats facing IP are significant, but there are steps which can be taken to effectively deter or defend against attackers and minimize the risk that innovative ideas are stolen. Identifying and assessing IP on a regualar basis is a necessary first step in protective measures. It’s also important to look at where and how and where your IP is both stored and secured, how it’s transferred within a company network, and perhaps most imporantly, who has access to it.
Next, how do you categorize your IP? What is potentially valuable to competitors or cyber thieves? Is it afforded higher levels of protection than standard data? In short, businesses should be considering all of the threats to that information and then assigning controls to those risks.
Beyond technological defenses, there are additional steps that can be taken to benefit the business.
Educating company employees on a continual basis about threats such as spear phishing and social engineering is a good start.
Establish a thorough, frequently assessed human access control program. Recognize and reward program participants. Those human eyes and ears may very well be more important than the technology behind even the very best systems.
Initiate an on-going, random schedule of surveillance countermeasures sweeps. Random so that the “watchers” will not know when. Scheduled as part of your continued diligence.
Defending innovative ideas is vital, but it doesn’t have to be done in isolation. Instead, it should form part of a broader IT security strategy that continually evolves and develops. A good way to ensure this continual improvement is to invest in implementing the ISO 27001 standard – is a best practive. Not doing so could be considered negligent.
We would appreciate an opportunity to share with you how we can either help you build a successful IP Security Program, or be an active, value-added partner in your ongoing efforts to protect your Intellectual Property from those intent on causing your business harm. For further information about how Trident can assist you, please contact us at (253) 852-7000