What are your company’s crown jewels – the information that gives it the competitive edge?
If your company is like most, some of what you rely on to compete in the marketplace is confidential — things like research data, unique processes and applications of information technology and customer data. It is the valuable information your enterprise has acquired through elbow grease, experience and investment.
This is the reward of innovation — including knowledge not subject to protection by patent, copyright or trademark laws — but increasingly, it is also the target of theft and exploitation, to the detriment of its creator.
News headlines, international trade negotiations, and recent litigation all point to the vulnerability of these trade secrets — made more so by digitization of information. These are clear indicators of growing trade secret theft, but provide an incomplete picture of the problem.
A new report by CREATe.org, in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), takes a rigorous look at the issue — the magnitude of the problem, the troublemakers and trends and what companies can do to protect their assets.
“Economic Impact of Trade Secret Theft: A Framework for Companies to Safeguard Trade Secrets and Mitigate Potential Threats” brings focus to four critical areas:
- An economic assessment of trade secret theft across advanced industrial economies, putting it in context of other illicit economic activity.
- An assessment of the threat posed by the main perpetrators of trade secret theft: What are the motivations and capabilities of nation states, malicious insiders, competitors, transnational criminal organizations and hacktivists?
- A look forward 10-15 years to consider how the marketplace might evolve around trade secrets and other innovation, depending on the balance of cyber power, the openness of the internet, the pace of innovation, and regulation focused on trade secret protection.
- Steps companies can take to guard against the damaging impacts of trade secret theft. The report lays out a practical approach for a company to identify and categorize their trade secrets and the most likely threats to these assets. The framework also helps companies assess vulnerabilities in its existing control structure; and provides a model to assess losses attributable to the theft of a trade secret. Each of five elements in this framework is explained in depth in the report, which also presents a case study to illustrate in concrete terms, how the toolkit can be applied.
Some of the findings in the new report are pretty sobering — the astronomical economic impact of trade secret theft, for instance, and the notion that some of the greatest threats come from company insiders and competitors.
The good news in this new report is that there is much companies can do in the near term to mitigate the risks to their competitive information, particularly if they understand that doing so is an investment.
Over time, the approach provided in this report can be a first step in a larger collective effort to prevent/mitigate/address trade secret theft — a challenge too great for any one government, company or organization to deal with alone.