“Intellectual property” is a broad term that applies to many aspects of business, from trade secrets and ideas to proprietary products and services, physical property, and more. With more and more companies embracing digital technologies, it’s a growing threat in the U.S.—one that experts warn must be addressed.
Safeguarding Your Intellectual Property
Businesses should adopt a series of best practices in order to reduce their risk of intellectual property theft, according to industry leaders. Steps to take include:
- Background checks. Prior to bringing new employees on board, your organization should conduct a full background check—a deep dive that examines both criminal and civil issues such as bankruptcy, lien holds and other judgments against an individual that would trigger scrutiny for any prospective employer. It’s also recommended that you communicate to employees the possibility of annual background checks even if you have no intention of actually doing them on a yearly basis. This allows you to implement them on a more regular basis if the situation warrants and acts as a deterrent to any staff member in the future.
- Monitor activity. Letting employees know that all activity on work computers, company cellphones, and networks is subject to monitoring is a proactive way of keeping them on the straight and narrow. Setting up a disclaimer that pops up every time the employee logs on is an especially effective reminder. Your IT department should also set up corporate networks so each employee only has access to the information needed for their particular job. Internal networks should be monitored constantly to ensure that corporate data isn’t being accessed by employees or outside sources.
- Educate employees. Often, employees are simply unaware of the methods used by outsiders to gain access to sensitive information. Phishing scams are quite common and pose a security threat to both individuals and businesses. Educating your staff about the threat of intellectual property and trade secret theft and providing them with tips on preventing themselves from falling victim to predatory practices that enable criminals to gain access to data will go a long way toward ensuring your intellectual property doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Knowledge truly is power!