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Protecting valuable trade secrets

The theft of trade secrets has become a major cyber concern for organizations across the globe. As much as $300 billion annually is lost by companies and agencies each year because of trade secret theft -- that's well over the amount of value the United States exported to the entire European Union in 2013, so it's not a small number. While the theft of intellectual property and is often enabled by technology devices, such as flash and external drives that now hold terabytes worth of data, the culprit can often be an existing or former employee.

To protect trade secrets, organizations have to tighten down cyber security while also creating strong security policies and practices. Companies should begin with defining exactly what information it deems to be trade secrets. For a food service company, the recipes and ingredient lists might be highly valuable; for a technology company, the schematics of various devices might need to be guarded. Trade secrets are any information that has commercial value, is not easy to attain through proper, legal channels, and is subject to efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the data.

Once information is identified as being a trade secret, organizations should create policies to protect it. Begin with making the information need-to-know; not everyone that works for a soft drink company needs to know exactly what goes into each recipe. Train employees who are provided with trade secret access to safeguard it, and put technology in place that makes it difficult to copy, send or move data.

By taking appropriate steps, businesses can help keep their trade secrets safe. If your trade secrets are exposed, you might have legal options for seeking reparation from the responsible party.

Source: CSO Online, "Stopping trade secret theft in your organization," Frederick Scholl, April 10, 2017

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