Security Think Tank: Make IP theft personal

IP theft: who should be tackling it and how?

Tackling theft – whether intellectual property (IP) or otherwise – begins with prevention and motivating people to protect themselves against it writes John Colley.

The short answer to who should tackle IP theft therefore is: Everyone. What I mean is that everyone who relies on IP must recognise and take ownership in the responsibility for protecting it. This demands a clear understanding of what is an organisation’s IP and its value, not just to the organisation as a whole but to every individual that has a stake in it. The motivation to protect something is personal.

Consider the example of a Formula 1 racing team. Their IP extends well beyond the engineering and technology of the car. Race tactics, pit-stop decisions, even the methodology behind changing the tires all contribute to the team’s competitive advantage and you can bet that everyone on that team is motivated to protect the secrecy of what they know. The impact of not doing so will have been clearly communicated.

Business generally must do the same. Various departments invest heavily in developing and understanding their competitive advantage. And they have understood the need to protect it. Sophisticated entrance control and building access systems are evidence of this. Further, most employees working in buildings with such systems would appreciate the value of protecting their entrance badge or ID card. 

A similar sense of value can be employed to protect the systems that houses IP and the IP data itself. It calls on business management to define what constitutes the organisation’s IP, security management to assess vulnerabilities, and employees to be made aware of how they are affected by both. 

John Colley is managing director, Europe for ISC²

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