Many firms are vulnerable to industrial espionage and theft because they fail to adequately protect intellectual property (IP), according to research.
The findings showed that only around 41 per cent of mid-sized companies across Europe make sure they protect IP and corporate secrets.
Global information firm Iron Mountain, which has its European headquarters in London, revealed the alarming statistic after conducting the study with PwC.
They found that the majority (54 per cent) of companies prioritise safeguarding customer, employee, business and financial information instead.
“Companies quite rightly pay attention to preventing the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive customer or employee information,” said Christian Toon, head of information risk at Iron Mountain Europe.
“It is concerning, however, that so few companies implement an integrated approach to information management across the business. Just imagine what could happen if valuable company secrets such as patents, product designs, or go-to-market strategies fell into the hands of a rival.”
Toon explained that the fact many companies leave information management to IT departments is contributing to the problem.
He said this can often lead to the back up paper trail vanishing without a sight as IT departments tend to focus on the digital versions.
“People often work on paper, they’ll write on it, they’ll key in their changes then, nine times out of 10, they’ll ignore the need for secure destruction and throw out the annotated hard copy – it is this that exposes companies to risk,” he added.
“Many think investment in IT infrastructure will address the information security problem, but this is not the case. Businesses need to take an all-format approach and should make their personnel the first line of defence in their information security and data protection programme.”
Out of the sectors analysed in the study, pharmaceutical companies were found to have the most relaxed attitude to IP protection, with only 30 per cent including IP in their information and risk management plans.
Elsewhere, financial services (35 per cent) and legal (38 per cent) firms were also among the worst for securing IP and corporate secrets.
For Toon the research results underline a need for companies to change.
He said: “Too few see information risk as a serious threat to their business. Addressing this shortcoming must start from the top.
“It’s time for the Board to start making Corporate Information Responsibility an integral part of the organisation, just as many have done with Corporate Social Responsibility.”
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