IP Theft: Your Company’s Worse Enemy

The theft of Intellectual property (IP) involves robbing people or businesses of their ideas, inventions, innovations, or creative expressions containing an economic value. Although the exact figure is incalculable, the Federal Bureau of Investigations estimates annual losses for international IP theft at over $300 billion. Thus, the health of the affected economies suffers greatly, millions of jobs are never established, and an incentive for growth diminishes.

IP theft is a severe crime destroying economies and businesses around the world. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations has developed the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to take the lead on seizures, civil penalties, and criminal prosecution. However, corporate espionage and the theft of IP continues to grow as an illegal industry.

The Threat

Before learning how to protect yourself and your business, you must first understand the risk and the vulnerabilities of possible IP theft. All organizations, no matter the size or industry, are susceptible to theft of IP. The Gillette Company, a multi-billion-dollar entity owned by Proctor & Gamble, has a history of being the victim of intellectual property theft. In 2015, former Gillette employees allegedly disclosed trade secrets to competitors and in 2016. In another instance, over $200k worth of stolen razors were sold on the black market.

IP theft also affects smaller businesses and may even have a more significant impact because smaller companies tend to struggle to recover fully. Midwest Rubber Service and Supply, the manufacturer of squeegees for floor scrubbing machines, saw their sales plummet after counterfeit squeegees hit the market. Consequently, the squeegee manufacture had to reduce its prices by over 50%. How many businesses can survive after a 50% price reduction in their top producing service or product?

Greed and the desire to succeed at all cost, coupled with technological advances, has simplified the ability of adversaries to conduct corporate espionage and steal IP. Recognizing the threat and possibility of your business being targeted is the first step in protecting yourself.

Protecting Your Business

The theft of IP can occur via several methods including cyber-attacks, physical robberies or through the extortion or bribing of current and even former personnel. Fortunately, there are numerous options for organizations to improve their overall vulnerability.

The identification of cyber weaknesses through active scanning and assessing spear phishing capabilities realistically depicts the ability of an adversary to obtain a competitive advantage or gain corporate insight. Secondly, ensure the proper physical security elements are established such as cameras, access control, and even advantageous structural design. Lastly, increasing employee awareness through training and compartmentalizing information will make your organization a hard-target.

The categories above are just a few areas security consultants evaluate to identify vulnerabilities provide recommendations, maximize safety, and assist in ultimately increasing the enterprises bottom-line.

Summary

IP theft has a significant impact on business entities and the global economy. With limited enforceable laws and resources, businesses continue to be a primary target. Small companies lack the expertise to defend themselves, and large organizations are attacked from numerous platforms risking millions of dollars. A complex society and technological advances have increased the threat and ease of IP theft. Does your organization have the policy, procedures, and personnel in place to withstand an attack and adequately safeguard your intellectual property and assets?

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