How Can Businesses Better Protect Intellectual Property?

How Can Businesses Better Protect Intellectual Property?
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Blood, sweat, tears and money goes into developing a ‘Big Idea’, but do we apply the same effort when it comes to letting others know about our epiphany? A light bulb moment is only half the battle, protecting that light bulb is the other, says Citrix’s Lindsay Brown.

Many of us have seen the film The Social Network and would be familiar with the long standing feud between Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard University peers about who “created Facebook”. Our digital world has been evolving ever since, but thankfully there are now digital solutions which can help safeguard the communication of your ideas and hard work.

Unfortunately, this kind of “they stole my idea!” moment is a sad reality within the creative and digital industry. While other sectors can patent their work and concepts, the advertising, design and marketing industry cannot – as shown recently by Melbourne illustrator Kelly Thompson whose designs were taken from her website and placed on to clothing on at least two websites.

However, technology can be your ally. By adopting a secure file sharing service, agencies will be in a better position to ensure their ‘big ideas’ don’t go anywhere, and if they do, they will know exactly where they went.

Ideas are as good as gold – they are the product of hard work and should not be given away lightly. And yet, a recent PwC survey, did unfortunately find that the primary culprit of intellectual property theft were a company’s own employees, clients or business partners. You wouldn’t (I hope) keep all your money under your mattress – you would use a bank, as it is comforting to know your account is secured with intricate security software. The same should apply to your ideas and documents.

But why invest? Surely options such as standard File Transfer Protocol (FTP) suffice?

There are a number of file-sharing tools on the market today, and it is important to remember that the tools you use to share photos with your family and friends might not be the right tool for sharing business documents and confidential materials.

Take the popular email for example – while these can be password-protected, they do not always provide robust security for sensitive data. This was a lesson learned by The Pentagon in 2000, after staff accidentally sent a number of top secret emails to a British schoolgirl – who, although alerted them of the error, could have just as easily forwarded the information, leaving The Pentagon clueless as to who knows its secrets.

The Asia Pacific region is leading the pack with the lowest rate of data breaches through an increase in spending and implementing strategic processes and safeguards for information security, according to PwC.

So how do you establish a level of security that matches those of the biggest businesses, but do so in a way that’s affordable and scalable?

In order to exchange your ideas easily and securely, rather than relying on consumer platforms, business grade document management services, like ShareFile, are a great alternative. Instead of putting your ideas at risk or placing them in virtual prison, these services can improve your control over how they are used.

Simply put, these solutions let you choose your password policy, set account lockout and session timeout thresholds, as well as determine who can access files, folders and subfolders. They can limit the number of times a file may be downloaded, along with setting an expiration dates on sensitive documents and prevent files from being opened using third-party apps as well as accessible offline via login.

Additionally, files come with a record of activity to show who accessed the information and when – providing an audit trail for complete transparency and accountability.

It should be noted that not all breaches are due to spitefulness but rather by accident. The rise of bring-your-own-device for the workplace has seen businesses shift from location-based working in favour of flexible working arrangements and with employees bringing data from the corporate network home and vice versa, you have to consider how to guarantee it the same protection in both locations. Additionally, employees working on their smartphone or tablets fail to adequately secure sensitive data from their personal and non-work related apps.

Rather than leaving yourself open to risk, agencies can put themselves in a strong position to collaborate securely and flexibly on a business-orientated online file sharing tool.

Lindsay Brown is the Citrix APAC regional director.

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