Intellectual Property Theft

Devising Preventive Security Policies, Exit Strategies

 


 jean-legault-80x80.jpgDigital Fingerprints 

So, you just received a phone call from the head of your research and development department who claims that one of the scientists just quit and left with sensitive information? Wait … Or was it a mutual fund dealer who left the organization and took your client list and their investments? Wait … Or was it a sales rep who took client information, including product blueprints, so he could start his own business? Wait … Or was it a programmer who took part of the source code he developed for your company because he thought it could be useful in his next job? Wait … Or was it … ?

These cases have three things in common:

• They’re examples of intellectual property (IP) theft.

• They involve electronic evidence.

• I’ve been involved in all of them recently.

I wrote a Digital Fingerprints column in the July/August 2008 issue (www.fraud-magazine.com/article.aspx?id=357) in which I discussed IP theft. So, why another one? Well, it’s quite simple: It’s still happening and will continue to happen. And the faster the organization reacts, the less damage it might have to deal with. Many organizations discover IP theft months or years after it has occurred, and you never want to be in that situation. So, what to do? 

Security Policy 

The first step in protecting IP is knowing about. Where does it reside, where is it stored, who has access to it, etc.? How do you answer these questions? By discussing IP with the information owners, the various departments within the organization, and the custodian of the information – the IT department.

Your organization’s security policy should include directives on classification of information, access control, and storage including portable storage devices. Inform employees through the policy that they’re obligated to protect IP. The code of ethics, which employees should sign every year, should contain a clause about IP protection.

 


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