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Be vigilant on IP theft

Companies are becoming ever more vulnerable to intellectual property (IP) theft as the world becomes increasingly connected, thanks to factors such as globalisation and the rise of cloud technology, says Robert Le Busque, vice-president for strategy in Asia-Pacific for US-based telecommunications giant Verizon.

"Data breach for financial gain, while malicious and damaging, is more of a known entity, but there is greater value to be unlocked from intellectual property theft in a connected world," says Le Busque, adding that awareness in corporations of IP theft risk is rising but there is more to do.

IP theft is particularly damaging because it is asymmetrical - one data breach can cause an organisation multiple impacts, especially financially. But a hacker who steals credit card credentials can extract financial gain only up to a certain limit before they must move on, he adds.

IP theft often remains undetected for months, causing losses to the company for an extended period. According to a recent report by Verizon, 66 per cent of known IP theft attacks took more than a month to discover. It is also terminal, meaning once it occurs, the information is gone and nearly impossible to retrieve, adds Le Busque.

He says that in Asia in particular, there is insufficient awareness of IP theft involving insider help. The report also found that 14 per cent of data breaches were by insiders.

To mitigate risks, Le Busque says companies need to first classify information, understand what constitutes critical intellectual property, where it resides and who has access. Only when these questions are answered can measures be put in place to prevent theft.

"You can never protect yourself 100 per cent, but a lot of organisations are delinquent in that classification," he says. "The real question is to ask who would want to steal the intellectual property that I produce. It is only when you are able to come up with a reasonable response that you take the first step towards managing your exposure."

Apart from securing a company's own networks, it is also important to make sure that business partners and third parties entrusted with intellectual property also have sufficient safeguards in place to prevent theft, he adds.