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How to Protect CAD Files and Workflows Against IP Theft

How can you protect CAD files against IP theft, data leakage, and tampering? In 2022, securing confidential data along the supply chain, end-to-end, is paramount.

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Manufacturing companies face growing pressure to better shield their trade secrets from prying eyes. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, they have been hit by a wave of intellectual property (IP) theft by insiders, cyber attacks, and data leaks caused by negligence.

In particular, instances of engineers copying critical CAD drawings on flash drives on their way out the door have increased dramatically. Among the victims are automotive, aerospace, defense, and semiconductor companies.

CAD/CAM/CAE files often contain the most valuable know-how in these industries. They hold the key to the company’s future – or to that of a competitor, if outsiders get hold of the data. That’s why more manufacturers now adopt Enterprise Digital Rights Management (Enterprise DRM) for end-to-end document protection. So what does it actually look like to protect CAD files from the engineer’s perspective? 

 

CAD file password protection is for victims

CAD file password protection can be guessed or cracked. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools provide only limited protection. Enterprise DRM, on the other hand, provides an alternative. Based on a data-centric security model and strong FIPS 140-2 encryption, it is the key to a viable Zero Trust strategy.

Let’s take the automotive industry, for example. Many companies in the mobility sector realize the need to secure their CAD drawings and other unstructured data properly. The wide variety of CAD tools and file formats used across various companies in the supply chain poses a major challenge.

A viable solution protects Catia, Creo, or Siemens NX drawings, plus Solidworks, SolidEdge, JT, 3D-PDF, or STEP files, among many others, depending on the use case. Their quest for effective and gapless document protection leads many companies to Fasoo Enterprise DRM, which covers more than 230 applications and document formats. This means the company can encrypt, control, and track its sensitive data – no matter where it goes or who handles it. 

 

How to protect CAD drawings without productivity loss?

These capabilities are now crucial in the automotive sector, where information security teams were hit by a triple whammy during the pandemic:

    • Remote work and unmanaged devices have created blind spots for IT and increased insider risks. In addition, remote access vulnerabilities like misconfigured VPNs and spotty endpoint security make it easier for outside attackers to penetrate corporate networks, often through supply chain partners.

 

    • In the automotive industry, the “great reset” – the shift to development and production of “intelligent” electric vehicles (EV) – is coinciding with the “great resignation”. Companies struggle with higher turnover rates among their top talent, including senior engineers who join competitors.

 

    • IT in manufacturing companies is particularly impacted by both developments. The coronavirus crisis exacerbated personnel shortages in this sector. In many organizations, this development has increased the vulnerability to data theft and leaks. Critical software patches, for example, are often postponed or missed altogether. 

 

As a result, companies take additional measures to secure their CAD drawings. One concern IT has to deal with is: How will the new CAD file protection impact workflows in the engineering department? 

 

CAD file protection without gaps or friction 

In organizations that deploy Fasoo Enterprise DRM, such concerns are quickly alleviated. Let’s look at a leading automotive components supplier, for example.

Image shows a brake caliper (red)Brake caliper (red)

Here’s what happens when a design engineer opens and modifies a Fasoo-protected 3D CAD drawing of a brake caliper:

 

      1. The engineer finds and clicks the CAD file in the company’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system. This is also where related data sets, such as process information, are stored and maintained. This system is shared by the company’s tech centers on several continents.

 

      1. This particular document opens in CATIA, the tool it was created with. Like all files containing confidential IP, it was automatically encrypted by Fasoo at the point of creation, with specific permissions assigned to a limited group of authorized users. As a senior member of the development team, our engineer can download, view, and modify the file.

 

      1. The senior engineer reviews the CAD drawing and discovers a possible improvement opportunity that would make the caliper piston more efficient. To be sure it hasn’t been incorporated before and abandoned, the user runs and downloads a report from the PLM that includes updates and revisions of related documents. Fasoo automatically encrypts this report as it is downloaded to the engineer’s computer.

 

      1. In the next step, our user saves an excerpt of the 3D geometry as a PDF file to email to one of the company’s outside engineering consultants for discussion. Because security policies automatically apply to file derivatives protected with Fasoo Enterprise DRM, the new file inherits the security of the original file. The senior engineer then manually grants temporary access to the engineering consultant, who now can view and annotate the PDF before submitting a formal quote for this project.

 
Throughout the process, Fasoo Enterprise DRM secures the CAD file and its derivative at rest, in transit, and in motion. Equally protected is all associated unstructured data, such as Microsoft Office, images, or PDF documents. Security policies are centrally managed and travel with the file.

An audit trail of document activities provides granular insight into how each CAD file and related documents are accessed during this process. This includes unauthorized access attempts. Seamless integration with the automotive company’s knowledge management system and flexible policy management ensure a frictionless user experience for engineering teams – no IT intervention required. 

Do you have questions about protecting CAD files and workflows with Enterprise DRM?
Contact us here
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