Intellectual Property (IP) is a particularly valuable asset for hackers, corporate competitors, and even nation states to steal because it’s what provides businesses with their competitive edge. IP usually isn’t stolen just to be sold , it’s stolen to start new businesses, share valuable information about competitors’ clients or give a former employee an edge in a new position. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for employees to inadvertently or maliciously leak IP, whether by working on sensitive information in a public place or falling prey to spies pretending to be a researcher wanting to speak to subject matter experts. The thing about IP is that once it’s been leaked or stolen there’s not much you can do. Even if you seek legal action, the information is still out there, causing untold damage to your company. So, what can you do to protect your intellectual property before it gets out there? Here are some insights.

Be Clear About What You Consider Intellectual Property

Specifying what is considered IP starts with the CISO communicating on a regular basis with executives about what needs to be protected, how it should be protected and from whom. This means careful coordination with the CEO, COO, leaders in HR, marketing, sales, legal services and any other key players to make sure everyone is on the same page about what information is intellectual property and needs to be treated accordingly.

Know Where Your Intellectual Property is Kept

Your intellectual property might exist outside of your core IT systems. This could include printers, copiers and scanners that store the devices they process, cloud applications and file sharing services and employees’ personal devices. Make sure to develop policies and procedures to track and protect your IP in these places.

Pro tip: When it comes to protecting IP, you’ll want to think both digital and physical. While you’re restricting access to software records based on employees’ job functions and focusing on encryption, you’ll also want to make sure any rooms where sensitive information is stored is also locked and secured.

Educate Your Employees

When it comes to protecting IP, your employees are often the weakest link. Usually, IP gets compromised by accident, like an employee sending it to the wrong person over email, sharing it over an insecure collaboration tool like Slack or messaging it through WhatsApp. You can address this by making sure that employees are aware of the steps they need to take to protect sensitive information. They should be be well-versed in what kind of information they can share in public or work on in public and what kind of information they should take precautions in discussing or working on in public. Companies should also clearly label confidential information so there’s no confusion for employees by specifying, for example, that the information is private at the log-in screen. That way employees won’t accidentally start working on sensitive information in a public area like a coffee shop.

A huge aspect of protecting intellectual property is using the right tools for communication so that information can’t be inadvertently leaked, whether because it’s vulnerable to malicious actors or because employees accidentally share information with unintended recipients. Vaporstream makes it easy to quickly share sensitive information while making sure that information can’t be forwarded, screenshotted or sent to the someone outside the organization. Find out what makes us secure here.