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Are your trade secrets safe with ex-employees?

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Despite the recent high profile hacking cases, Asian companies are still most fearful of former employees when it comes to trade secret theft.

According to Baker McKenzie’s new report, 85% of senior executives in Asia saw trade secrets and IP as core to their business, and 40% of Asian businesses have elevated trade secret and IP protection to a top five boardroom concern.

These businesses are well aware that their trade secrets and IP are likely targets of theft. However, the prime suspects are not hackers, but former employees.

Surveying more than 400 senior executives globally, including 116 in Asia Pacific, the report found that 35% of senior executives in Asia were the most concerned about ex-staff stealing and sharing trade secrets, compared to 32% globally.

While slightly more than a quarter (28%) felt their relationships with consultants and suppliers posed the greatest threat of trade secret theft, and only 18% said cyber criminals/hackers were their biggest concern.

READ MORE: What every employee should know about the WannaCrypt ransomware

Despite trade secret theft being a cause for concern, protective measures seem to be lacking.

A fifth of respondents in Asia already had confidential information stolen, while another 13% did not know if they had experienced trade secret theft or not.

Meanwhile, less than a third of businesses kept both an inventory of trade secrets and a plan for how to manage breaches.

Say Sujintaya, head of intellectual property, Asia Pacific, Baker McKenzie, said the attention that companies give to protecting their trade secrets could mean the difference between success and failure.

“While trade secret theft does not often hit the headlines as it is clandestine and sometimes not immediately apparent, when companies clearly lose a long held advantage to a local or international competitor, it is often able to be traced back to an incident of trade secret theft.

“There are very practical ways that companies can protect themselves, including identifying exactly what trade secrets the business holds, and the value of these secrets. It is then a question of managing access, ensuring contracts with employees and contractors are watertight, and protecting computer networks from a range of cyber threats.”

ALSO READ: Only a third of Singaporean companies train staff on IT security awareness

However, companies were today unlikely to be able to protect against the threat of sustained cyber attacks on their own.

“Companies are on the front line of the battle because they are the victims,” said David Lashway, co-chair of Baker McKenzie’s Global Cybersecurity Practice.

“They do have an obligation to identify and protect trade secrets. But if a nation state actor has prioritized stealing their trade secrets as part of its national agenda for economic growth, the idea that a company is going to be able to successfully protect itself by itself is challenging to say the least.”

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