published November 28, 2012

By Harrison Barnes, CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left

Battling the Theft of Trade Secrets

Battling the theft of trade secretsThe FBI doesn't approve a hushed approach to data theft unless there is suspicion about someone actually doing espionage. According to the FBI, to combat theft of intellectual property, organizations must do the following:

  • Regularly educate and train employees on security protocols
  • Use careful screening procedures for new employees
  • Make sure that proprietary information is properly protected
  • Provide employees with convenient and safe ways to report suspicions about data theft
  • Regularly monitor computer networks for signs of suspicious activity
  • Empower computer network security personnel with the latest tools
In serious situations, it is always better to get assistance from counterintelligence experts, including the FBI.

Organizational lapses that make data theft easier
  • Undefined policies regarding telecommuting or working from home on sensitive projects
  • Incorrectly labeled proprietary information
  • Workplace perception of lax security and minimal punishment for theft
  • Easy availability of proprietary information
  • Providing access privileges to those who do not require such access
  • Building up time-pressure to an extent where rushed employees fail to maintain security protocols without considering consequences
  • Lack of training on protecting proprietary information
Behavioral indicators of an espionage agent within the workplace

While it is difficult to nab an intelligent and cautious spy, the FBI lists a number of behavioral indicators that can raise suspicions of an employee engaging in data theft. These include:
  • Taking home proprietary material without authorization via email, thumb drives, or computer disks
  • Seeking or trying to access classified information not related to work duties
  • Excessive or uncalled for interest in matters that may be of interest to business competitors or foreign entities
  • Unnecessary copying of proprietary material
  • Remotely accessing computer networks during leaves or vacation and at odd times
  • Enthusiasm for unusual schedules or odd hours of work, including weekend work
  • Conducting unauthorized searches and downloading confidential material
  • Unreported overseas travel and/or unreported foreign contacts
  • Short overseas trips that are for strange reasons
  • Unexplained affluence and suspicious personal contacts with competitors
  • Unusual interest in personal lives of co-workers, usually leading to questions regarding finances and relationships
  • Regularly checks for the presence of security devices and their locations
  • Down and overwhelmed with personal life crises
Most innocent people can show many of these behavioral indicators, but few would commit a crime. However, a number of indicators, along with suspicious data related activity, is grounds for considering counterintelligence measures.

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