Intellectual property (IP) is at the core of every successful organization now more than ever, it is the number one target of various types of cyber attacks from all over the world. From Hollywood to small businesses, a company’s IP is often times just as valuable, if not more valuable, than its physical assets. According to the Theft of Intellectual Property Commission, IP theft has cost U.S. companies more than an estimated $600 billion a year. Many think that securing their assets is simply done by installing security cameras and access control systems to restrict who enters and exits the facility, this is not the case, although these are important measures to take, you are at risk for intellectual property theft. If you want to protect your company’s unique IP, you will need to take some serious steps to do so.
What is Intellectual Property and How Does Theft Occur?
The formal definition of intellectual property (IP) is, “Creations of the mind such as inventions, literary, and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.”
Types of Intellectual Property:
- Lists of registered patents
- Copyright material
- Manufacturing processes for products
- Trade secrets-things only employees will know about your company
Think of intellectual property as proprietary information that has not been made public yet.
Intellectual property theft is highly profitable and is pretty easy to pull off thanks to the digital age. The entire process can take only minutes to complete with no travel or in-person contact necessary. The stolen information can then be pirated for profit and, in some cases, can lead to cyberstalking and/or ‘doxxing’ (the process of stealing someone’s personal details and publicly posting them online)
While intellectual property security is a complex task, there are a number of ways in which you can secure your ideas, employee information, and much more of your digital information from cyber attacks.
How Do I Keep My Company’s IP Secure?
The best way to keep your company safe from intellectual property theft is to be proactive against potential threats.
1. Inform and Educate Employees About IP Theft
Know what type of information you have within all branches of your company’s database and understand what needs to be protected and from whom to protect it from. The first step is to inform and educate all employees that sensitive information is to be kept secure. Awareness training is extremely effective in regards to preventing intellectual property leaks. Extending knowledge of why the company has particular firewalls and copyrights to your employees is a good starting point for theft defense.
2. Prioritize Which of Your Company’s Assets is Most at Risk
This will save your company time and money when it comes time to do a cost-benefit analysis. Consider what part of your company’s IP has the highest risk of hurting you and your business. You will have a much easier time determining how to best spend your protective efforts and what software tools to implement.
3. Determine Which Tools You Need to Prevent IP Theft
Now that you have determined which information will require the most protection, you can figure out which of the growing variety of data loss prevention tools are best suited for your business. There are a number of software tools available to your company that not only track documents and serve as a storage place for your intellectual property, but can also locate sensitive documents and maintains a record of how they are being used and by whom they are being used by. Be sure to look into pros and cons of all software. If this seems overwhelming and time consuming, you can always bring in a third party expert to help.
IP security might also include new protocols and security policies within your company such as acceptable use policies, email and password policies, and access control to prevent computer intrusion. This type of implementation may also help in preventing potential negligence, “rogue employees,” or third-party threats from vendors, or contractors.
The Best Practices of IP Security
It is very likely that your company has more intellectual property than you might even be aware of and the best thing you can do for your business when it comes to intellectual property security is to make the investment now rather than pay the price later on.
Hiring an attorney to register your assets, copyrights, and trademarks, while also writing down any other details that relate to your company’s IP is worth considering. It may also prove beneficial to do an IP audit so that your business has a complete portfolio of all formal IP that was documented.
Even after you’ve added new policies and practices, your company’s intellectual property is still vulnerable to potential attacks and it is crucial to continue evaluating your IP security practices and consulting with security and legal experts.