Safeguarding Intellectual Property

The economy has seen a dramatic shift in the last twenty years. As a result of this, companies are now looking beyond their physical assets as the primary representation of value, and are giving due importance to intellectual capital. 

Every company has its own intellectual capital. It is often hard to put a value because it is rarely appraised and the benefits are accrued after years of direct and indirect investment. It may be priceless for the company that owns it. 

For example, the formula of a vanishing cream may not be as valuable to Hindustan Unilever, as it is to its competitor. If the competitor plans to add vanishing cream to its product line, it will save millions in research and development by stealing Hindustan Unilever's proprietary data. The range may vary from any product development to database dumps of Fortune 100 companies.

Today, cybercriminals are frequently stealing IPs and making huge amounts of money by trading information. CIOs must take steps to protect the intellectual capital of their companies from getting stolen. They should try to identify vulnerable points and fix the loop holes within hours of discovery.

According to a global survey, not many organisations are conducting frequent risk assessments to identify threats posed to their data. It should be done every quarter, instead of once every year.

CIOs should allocate more budgets to protect client/supplier data and employee data, which is as valuable as other intellectual capital. Best processes should be implemented to protect it from cyber-attacks.

CIOs should also be aware of the Geographic Threat Perceptions to Intellectual Property. Countries such as China, Russia, and Pakistan are perceived to be the least safe places for data storage. United Kingdom, Germany and the United States are perceived to be the safest for data storage related to intellectual capital.

One of the biggest challenges that every CIO faces is to plug the leakage of intellectual property through social media sites and mobile devices. This is due to the changing nature of attacks through social media sites and devices, such as removable media and smart phones.

Following are some simple steps that organizations can take to address the challenges posed by the cybercriminals lurking on social media sites:

• Provide free Internet access and monitor and log activities of individual user. 

• Generate report of top 25/10 Internet talkers (users) based on the company categories (Add social networking sites also as part of the category). Keep an eye on the top talkers. You may implement restricted access to top talkers on data download / upload.

• Educate users about the information that must be kept confidential on social media sites. IT managers need to be involved while conceptualizing such training programs. 

• Create a company-focused group on external social networking sites and monitor the information being shared there.

• Install of social media usage monitoring tools on laptop. Monitoring of logs once the user is connected to the corporate network can help get information on the browsing history.

As the CIO, it is necessary to inform of data leakage to the customer. Most Indian companies are not taking it so seriously. Informing the customer will help take appropriate action in order to prevent future leakages from the customer side. The new concept of cyber insurance policy can also help  protect the intellectual capital of the organization.


Ashish Chakraborty is Associate Director – Information Security – at Mindtree, a global IT consulting firm. ...

More about  Ashish Chakraborty

This post has received 1 Comment

It is an excellent perspective. So much on stake if we don’t follow simple steps.


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