Can you stop the loss or theft of trade secrets and other intellectual property (IP)?
IP theft is surging as nation-states, hackers and companies try to get a competitive edge. Loss or theft of IP can lead to serious financial damage for a company and can set back a country’s technological advantage by decades.
Nation-state hacks against Western startups are soaring warn cyber and intelligence agencies from the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council (FIORC). In a joint statement issued by agencies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, authorities said attackers target organizations developing artificial intelligence, quantum science, and synthetic biology. The stolen data is used to fast-track technological and military capabilities within adversary nations, alliance members said.
Given the incredible global emphasis on AI in the last year, you can see how important this technology is to all facets of business and our lives. While cutting-edge technology is clearly at risk, IP theft is an issue for all companies.
IP is among a company’s most valuable assets, but securing IP is not as simple as locking the door to the office building or keeping proprietary data locked away in a safe. Securing IP requires a robust set of cybersecurity processes and systems since most companies store data digitally.
Cyber-security defenses are crumbling in the face of advanced persistent threats, insider threats, and vulnerable supply chain relationships. Attackers target three areas of vulnerability:
- Insiders who have access to sensitive data
- Supply chain partners
- Unpatched and vulnerable systems
While espionage and brute force hacking make the headlines, privileged insiders are a major risk to your IP. You might have engineers developing drawings, software developers writing code for your next product, or manufacturing teams generating proprietary process information. If any of that data walks out the door, your business may suffer irreparable damage.
Malicious insiders who want to make a buck or someone leaving your company who takes sensitive data is one risk. A larger one is the accidental leaking of information through carelessness or coercion. Because people are at the center of creating, managing, and sharing sensitive IP, it’s too easy to accidentally send something to the wrong person. We all make mistakes. Phishing attacks are the main method to coerce someone to share sensitive data with unauthorized users. People falling for phishing are not malicious. They inadvertently respond with sensitive data.
Traditional data discovery and classification tools are not adequate to identify IP. They typically are rules-driven and rely on regular expressions or keywords to determine sensitivity. Traditional data loss prevention (DLP) tools sit at data ingress/egress points applying rules and analytics as sensitive data moves about. However sensitive files find their way to third parties, unmanaged devices, and unsanctioned cloud services where data is accessed, used, and stored outside the corporate lens. These tools focus more on controlling, rather than protecting data. They query and assess files to see if they follow rules and check for anomalous events. But the data itself is left unprotected and when breached too often goes undetected for weeks if not months.
By automatically encrypting and assigning dynamic access control to sensitive files, you can limit editing, copying, printing, screenshots, and general sharing of sensitive data with unauthorized users and systems both inside and outside your organization. You ensure that only authorized users can access your sensitive data based on security policies that validate user access continuously.
If an insider responds to a phishing attack, the perpetrators can’t read the content of the files. If a malicious insider sends sensitive data to a confederate or takes it to another job, the same outcome. Your IP is protected.
Supply Chain Risk Mitigation
Sharing files with supply-chain partners beyond the corporate network can lead to a loss of your valuable IP if your partner’s security posture is not as rigid as yours. You might have a secure way to share sensitive files, but once the other party receives it, your controls fall away.
This becomes more important as your partners share sensitive data with their partners. If you share a CAD file with a partner who uses subcontractors to produce components for their assemblies, you want to control access to that data. Lots of companies use third-party payment and benefits processors for their business and those processors use subs as part of their business workflows. Again, you need to maintain control of your data throughout these workflows.
As with insider threats, by automatically encrypting sensitive files, you maintain control of your IP at all times. An embedded identifier (ID) in the encrypted files allows you to track access regardless of location. This enables you to establish additional controls, including setting file expiration dates and the ability to revoke access at any time for third-party recipients. By implementing granular permission controls, you ensure that only authorized users gain access to your sensitive IP.
Patching and Updating
This seems very obvious, but it’s amazing how many companies don’t patch their servers, desktops, laptops, and mobile devices regularly. And don’t forget routers, firewalls, and other network and security systems. Sometimes corporate policy doesn’t turn on automatic updating by default, because IT needs to vet the patches before deployment. Most have defined regiments to update as security patches are available, but sometimes overburdened IT organizations can miss something. Unpatched vulnerabilities open your systems to exploitation.
If you encrypt all sensitive files at the time of creation, you can mitigate the risk of unpatched systems. If a hacker or nation-state compromises your systems and exfiltrates sensitive IP, they can’t read the content inside the files. This protects you even if your patching isn’t up to date.
Protect Your IP with Fasoo
Encrypting sensitive files, assigning explicit access controls, and using intelligent monitoring to prevent information leaks, help protect your sensitive IP. Identifying and protecting your sensitive data as you create it is the best approach to control its access.
Adding granular permissions to files protects data in use, so someone can’t inadvertently or maliciously copy and paste sensitive content to another file or communications system while the file is open. File derivatives are protected with the same security controls as the original file, so the protection persists any time you make a copy or do a Save As. You can control other exfiltration vectors, such as printing or taking a screenshot of sensitive IP, by preventing these actions or by adding visible watermarks to trace content to the source.
By bringing the security controls to the file, you are in the best position to actively protect and control your IP.