Intellectual Property (IP) is one of the most critical assets organizations have, and, in order to protect it, they need a coherent cybersecurity strategy.
Intellectual property comes in various formats, including business plans, software code, product designs, trade secrets, and know-how. The formal definition of IP, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), includes “creations of the mind — inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce.”
Besides helping businesses stand out from the competition, intellectual property increases their commercial value and provides additional value to customers. Currently, a plethora of regulations – like the GDPR or HIPAA – focus on protecting customers’ sensitive information, but organizations shouldn’t overlook intellectual property either when it comes to data security. For some companies, IP might be more valuable than physical assets, and it represents a target in case of both insider and outsider threats. In many cases, sensitive business data leaves an organization by accident or due to negligence.
Each company has to deal with specific threat actors, but there are some steps to follow when looking to protect IP better.
1. Having an overview of the confidential data
Nowadays, many organizations store their information assets across multiple on-premises and cloud-based storage devices. Thus, the first step in protecting intellectual property is locating it, having an overview of it, and classifying it from least to the most sensitive.
Furthermore, with the rise of BYOD, users often copy sensitive data to their personal devices when working remotely on their laptops, which puts data at risk. If companies want to avoid a data breach, it is essential to identify who has access to IP, including users, contractors, and partners; besides, it’s just as critical to define the potential points of compromise. Periodically reviewing the access controls to identify insiders that no longer need access (e.g., who left the company or moved to another project) is also an important step.
2. Enforcing security policies
Insiders or disgruntled employees often put sensitive data at risk; therefore, organizations should prioritize the enforcement of security policies. Companies also must educate their employees on the security protocols and procedures for handling IP and should be aware of the consequences of their actions.
A data security policy has to provide information on which data needs to be protected and where it resides, who has access to it, and how it needs to be protected. It should also mention how sensitive data, including IP, should be transported and methods for its destruction when no longer needed or required.
3. Securing intellectual property
Organizations can choose from a vast array of data security tools, and deploying effective threat countermeasures is vital for reducing risks related to IP. These include implementing technical controls to monitor user activity and enforcing access control.
Tools like Endpoint Protector DLP , are a core component of a cybersecurity strategy. These solutions can locate sensitive data, both in motion and at rest, as well as keep track of how they are being used and by whom. Encrypting sensitive business information or research and development information can also reduce risks of loss.
All businesses – from multinational companies through SMBs to recently established startups – should be aware of the threats facing intellectual property and take the necessary steps to safeguard it. By ensuring adequate protection, companies can raise their value.
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