According to Bo Dietl, a company’s trade secrets are among its most valuable assets. For this reason, trade secret theft and corporate espionage are on the rise.
Trade secrets may include anything from recipes to scientific formulas, methods, processes and other information that provides companies with a competitive edge. Stealing these secrets threatens people’s jobs, national security and the success of U.S. businesses.
Here are three actions that can help companies safeguard trade secrets:
- Identify the Value of Your Trade Secrets
The first and most important step is to identify trade secrets and determine their value. You should know what processes, lists and information qualify as trade secrets. Then, you can identify how a company might approach stealing each piece of confidential data.
Without an inventory of valuable trade secrets, it is impossible to enact measures to protect them. By assigning a value to each secret, you can identify which ones are most attractive to fraudsters.
- Update Confidentiality Agreements with Employees
Companies should review and update their employment contracts and confidentiality agreements on a regular basis. Suppliers, employees and others with access to your trade secrets should sign non-disclosure contracts.
Sometimes, though, employees may slip up and reveal a trade secret. In other cases, they simply do not respect the terms of a non-disclosure. For this reason, you should only share sensitive information on a need-to-know basis.
- Enhance Your Digital and Physical Security
Where and how you store your trade secrets can determine how vulnerable they are to theft. If sensitive data is on paper, then it should be stored in a locked office or cabinet.
Establishing security clearance protocols can also deter potential theft. Keycards and other methods of access can help companies monitor who enters a secure area, which can help the investigation if sensitive information is stolen.
If you are storing trade secrets electronically, then it is important to hire a cyber-security service to encrypt and safeguard the data. Hackers routinely target business networks or servers to steal intellectual property, including valuable trade secrets.