Cybertheft of Intellectual Property

In a report on Intellectual Property (IP), CSO suggested that cybertheft is a serious threat for businesses around the world. They wrote,

The next big target for cyber-criminals, state governments, organized crime and hackers is IP. One stolen manufacturing process can be worth millions in saved development costs or billions in market share. Estimates show that Intellectual Property theft costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year, while robbing it of jobs and lost tax revenues. The threat from emerging economies is of particular concern, as laws can be lax and enforcement more difficult. [1]

CSO outlined three common categories of IP loss:

  • Insiders Attacks
  • State-sponsored Attacks
  • Counterfeiting/Piracy Attacks

Insider Attacks – From disgruntled employees to intentional plants by competitors, insider attacks are a common threat to all businesses (from SMBs to Enterprise). A software engineer for AOL stole and sold 30 million AOL customers names and addresses to spammers. An employee for Corning, Inc. found company trade secrets in a device that was to be scrapped. Instead of reporting it, he sold it to a foreign competitor.

State-Sponsored Attacks –  CSO’s report suggests that a 2005 announcement by the Russian Prime Minister amounted to a public acknowledgement that the government continued to participate in state-sponsored commercial espionage.

Counterfeiting/Piracy Attacks – While piracy may seem to be limited to DVDs and youth illegally downloading songs, the real impact is far more serious. According the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, counterfeiting/piracy accounts for 5 percent to 7 percent of the global economy. As a result, the United States has lost more 750,000 and $250 billion in sales.

Stealing secrets can impact any size business. The challenge is developing a security strategy that involves training, anticipation, infrastructure, governance, and a range of protocols for incoming and departing employees.

[1] The Ultimate Guide to Intellectual Property Protection. CSO Magazine. June 6, 2012 <>