Successful Email Security Strategies for IP Protection

In this fast-paced digital landscape, where information flows seamlessly, intellectual property (IP), including trade secrets, stands as the lifeblood of your organization. These assets are the embodiment of your innovation, hard work, and competitive edge. However, in the age of cyber threats, they are also exposed to a myriad of data theft attacks that can compromise IP protection and the very foundation of your business.

IP theft can have a detrimental impact on your business both in reputational and financial damage in terms of revenue and market share loss, as well as remediation expenses for litigation, security measures, or damage control.

To make things work, seeking legal protection and insurance for IP theft is not accepted, unless appropriate cybersecurity (including email security) measures are put in place. Today, it's not just about having the right laws in place; it's about demonstrating that you've taken proactive steps to safeguard your IP appropriately. Failure to do so not only puts your IP at risk but may also jeopardize your right to compensation in the event of a theft.

Recent studies reveal a stark reality: relying solely on centralized security measures leaves firms vulnerable to attacks. 35% of large businesses have experienced a cyber attack in the past year (Aviva, 2023). What's more, IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report identified the average time it takes to detect data theft to be a staggering 204 days, followed by an average of 73 days to contain data theft. The consequences of such delays can be severe, potentially resulting in irreversible damage to your IP.

What Does Protecting IP Mean?

IP protection involves taking measures to safeguard creations of the mind or intellect that have commercial value.

What Are the 4 Types of IP Protection?

The four main types of IP protection are:

  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights
  • Trade secrets

The type of IP most commonly targeted via email often depends on the goals and motivations of the attackers, as well as the industry or sector being targeted. However, certain types of IP are frequently sought after due to their widespread value and potential for exploitation. At the top of this list is trade secrets – the primary target for email-based attacks and, therefore, the primary focus of this article.

We'll explore the various ways in which trade secrets as part of your IP can be targeted and lay out effective email security strategies to shield your organization from a data theft attack.

By understanding the intricacies of these threats and implementing robust protection measures, you can fortify your defences and ensure the safeguarding of your most critical assets. Let's delve into the world of successful email security strategies for unparalleled IP protection.

What Is a Trade Secret?

First of all, let’s define a trade secret.

A trade secret is a piece of proprietary information that provides a business with a competitive advantage, is not publicly disclosed, and in which confidentiality is appropriately protected.

They can include formulas, processes, designs, or any information that is not generally known and provides an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.

Laws and specific agreements – such as non-disclosure agreements – provide legal protection for trade secrets. However, it is important to notice that not every piece of confidential information is a trade secret. In order for something to be considered a trade secret, one needs to demonstrate that appropriate and proportionate efforts have been made to keep it confidential. If this condition is not met, legal protection does not apply and insurance may refuse a claim.

How Are Trade Secrets Attacked?

Trade secrets can be targeted and attacked via email through various methods that exploit vulnerabilities in communication channels. Here are common tactics employed by attackers and their risks to email security:

Spear Phishing Attacks:

  • Method: Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing where cybercriminals tailor their attacks to specific prominent individuals in the organization. The attackers study the individuals and use personalized information to craft convincing and deceptive messages, often posing as a trusted entity.
  • Risk: A spear phishing attack can trick the target into taking a specific action – usually sharing sensitive IP and trade secrets.

Social Engineering:

  • Method: Social engineering techniques involve manipulating individuals into divulging confidential information through psychological manipulation.
  • Risk: Social engineering attacks via email may target employees with access to trade secrets, leading to unintentional disclosure of sensitive information.

Business Email Compromise (BEC):

  • Method: A business email compromise attack involves gaining access to email accounts to directly steal email data or trick employees into transferring sensitive information.
  • Risk: BEC attacks may specifically target employees with access to trade secrets, leading to unauthorized disclosure or manipulation of valuable proprietary information.

Email Spoofing:

  • Method: Spoofed emails mimic legitimate senders, creating a false sense of trust and potentially tricking recipients into revealing trade secrets.
  • Risk: These emails may contain malicious attachments or links that compromise systems and grant unauthorized access to trade secrets.

Malware and Ransomware:

  • Method: Malicious software is often distributed through email attachments or links, posing a risk to trade secrets if it compromises the security of the systems containing this information.
  • Risk: Malware and ransomware attacks can lead to the theft, destruction, or encryption of trade secrets, making them inaccessible to the rightful owner.

Email Communication Interception:

  • Method: Attackers can intercept trade secrets sent through email channels that aren’t secured with encryption or proper safeguards.
  • Risk: Interception of unsecured email communication leads to unauthorized access to sensitive trade secrets during transmission.

Hacking Public Cloud Providers:

  • Method: A public cloud provider can be hacked from the outside or by a malicious admin from the inside, exploiting vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the cloud infrastructure.
  • Risk: The sensitive information stored in the cloud can be accessed from outside, resulting in trade secrets being revealed.

Legal and Insurance Claims:

  • Method: A competitor interested in acquiring a trade secret may gain access to it (for example through malicious agents), with the company failing to demonstrate its legal rights to the trade secret.
  • Risk: Due to inadequate technical protection, the rightful owner may fail to qualify the information as a trade secret and hence obtain compensation from the competitor and/or from an insurance company.

How Do I Manage Email Security?

Step 1: Email Security Training and Awareness:

A simple yet effective first point of call should be training employees on email security, to recognize phishing attempts, suspicious emails, and social engineering tactics, while also educating them on the importance of IP protection.

Step 2: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

Enable MFA to add an extra layer of email security, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. Again, this can be a quick and easy way to increase email security and IP protection.

Step 3: Implement Sender Verification:

Implementing sender verification measures is a critical component of managing email security and ensuring IP protection. By ensuring that emails come from legitimate sources and have not been tampered with during transit, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Step 4: Use Email Encryption & Secure File Transfer Software:

By using email security software, your emails are encrypted and your senders are authenticated. You can therefore guarantee IP protection by keeping your emails and files private even when servers, people, and credentials are compromised.

Manage Your Email Security With Planck

As the most effective and easy-to-use business communication protection software in the market, planck’s solutions are designed to protect enterprises from sophisticated cyber threats, ensuring the security and privacy of their sensitive data.

Unlike traditional training or content inspection tools, planck Secure Email lets you identify trusted senders as if you were face-to-face, based on Zero Trust principles.

A simple plugin for your existing email lets you encrypt communication end-to-end with internal and external contacts while remaining open to malware protection and inspection.

Learn more about features and pricing, or get in touch to discuss your unique email security and IP protection requirements.

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