A company’s intellectual property is one of its most valuable resources. It needs protection not only from competitors but also from threats within the business itself. As our mobile phones become smarter and our external hard drives sleeker and more discreet than ever, it is essential that businesses protect their intangible assets – client lists, databases and other confidential information that lie at your employees’ tech savvy fingertips.
Installing a camera above the tills can go a long way to prevent theft of money, but what sort of measures are available to stop your employees from plugging in their personal USB devices and walking away with the company’s intellectual property?
Ways to prevent theft of intellectual property
Preventing the theft of intellectual property is a question of measuring your employees’ access against the company’s protective measures from risk. In the absence of highly sophisticated document management systems, companies can adopt simple safeguards to secure its intellectual property. Some of these safeguards include:
Policies: implementing a solid IT policy will start the company in a good position. A well drafted IT policy will not only set out clear ground rules for all employees, it will also demonstrate the potential consequences for unauthorised use of intellectual property. Making employees aware of the serious ramifications is crucial in protecting your business.
Right of search: the problem with suspected breaches of IT policy is that employers often lack the evidence required to take further action. Including a right of search in your employee handbook will assist in investigating and potentially proving any allegations of theft of intellectual property. The ability to search an employee’s belongings for a laptop or a USB stick may prove crucial in stopping unauthorised use of intellectual property and distribution of precious confidential information.
Defining confidential information: employment contracts with clear definitions of confidential information is important if an employee poses a commercial risk to your company after they have left your business. Together with clearly drafted policies, employers can prevent potential breaches by placing certain obligations and restrictions on former employees when they move on to potential competitors.
Practical measures: Depending on your business and its resources, simple steps such as blocking access to particular websites and restricting access to more sensitive confidential information will lower the risk to your company. To prevent employees from emailing confidential information to their external personal email addresses, an email management system may be useful in tracking what is sent, to whom and when. As it takes only a few clicks to take confidential information from the company’s control and into an employee’s hands, this simple measure can be very effective.