Intellectual property (IP) is important for all businesses and can come in a variety of forms, including marketing strategies, communications and other mission-critical solutions and files. Safeguarding IP is a necessary function for all IT departments, as letting it fall into the hands of malicious individuals could be disastrous for an organization.
Fortunately, businesses can successfully protect their IP by understanding what makes up IP and how different services can be secured, according to a guide by InformationWeek Reports and Dark Reading.
What is intellectual property and what are the risks?
In a nutshell, IP is all the things that make up an organization and differentiates it from competitors in the same industry, the guide noted. Unfortunately, many decision-makers underestimate the risks involved with keeping these resources secure, often believing they don't have anything worth stealing. This is never the case.
If a rival firm finds a way to steal product schematics from a business, for example, the thieving company may be able to produce unique solutions faster than the original organization. As a result, victimized decision-makers will experience significant revenue losses and most likely lose a large share of the market. In other words, IP theft can be extremely crippling and must be prevented.
Cybercriminals will often go to great lengths to steal intellectual property and IT departments need to ensure they have effective data protection tools to keep out malicious outsiders. A report by CounterTack, for example, noted that roughly 84 percent of companies believe they are vulnerable to advanced persistent threats targeting a firm's IP.
While implementing firewalls and other solutions is incredibly important to a firm's security program, there are several steps that need to be completed before deploying defensive tools.
How to protect intellectual property
Identifying what data is sensitive is the first step involved in safeguarding IP, InformationWeek Reports noted.
"The new cyber landscape calls for organizations to recognize that advanced, targeted attacks have moved inside the virtual walls of their networks and that a more anticipatory posture in the face of eventual attacks is required," said Neal Creighton, CEO at CounterTack.
To effectively protect mission-critical data and applications, no parties should be left out of the evaluation stage. This means engineers, marketers and other department heads need to help the IT department classify all resources that need to be defended, InformationWeek Reports said. Companies should also consider establishing a policy that requires users to summarize a file's contents in the metadata, allowing security executives to easily identify which assets are sensitive.
Once IP is identified, decision-makers need to recognize which solutions are most valuable and prioritize the protection of these over less important files. In most cases, it is not necessary to implement extensive data security tools for all resources. Instead, IT departments should deploy robust defensive measures for highly classified information and implement basic security for everything else, InformationWeek Reports noted.
After all IP is identified, classified and labeled, it is the IT executive's responsibility to lock it down. This means IT needs to step in and monitor where the files are located, who in the company has access to them and why individuals are using them, InformationWeek Reports said.
"Regardless of the number of classification levels, the security procedure should be the same," the guide said.
Decision-makers also need to educate staff on the importance of protecting intellectual property, InformationWeek Reports noted. This was echoed by another ZDNet report, which said that preparing different departments throughout the business for a data breach is a crucial step in identifying when a malicious individual has breached security and has jeopardized IP.
A common problem is that many companies don't place an importance on policies regarding the security of intellectual property, Klein & Co. computer forensics expert and director Nick Klein told ZDNet. By establishing rules for employees early on in their careers, organizations will likely experience fewer problems in the future and, if they do, will be able to investigate and collect evidence against specific users more effectively.
"We have a lot of cases where people say, 'we had an employee who deleted their email. The only copy of it was a PST [personal storage table] archive [which contains outlook emails] on their computer. Can you get it back?'" Klein said, according to ZDNet. "A simple policy change to force that person to store that PST on the network could have overcome that."
Ensuring the protection of intellectual property is a necessary function for all businesses, as the exposure of these resources could lead to large fines or worse. By planning ahead and deploying effective security strategies, organizations can mitigate concerns associated with IP, allowing them to focus on other mission-critical goals and operations.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro