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  • Namrata Pahwa

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY & CYBER THEFT

From patents and employee knowledge to a top-secret company recipe, intellectual property (IP) is often amongst a company’s most valuable assets. But as more and more organizations store their company data digitally, IP has become a common target for cyberattacks and theft. A breach of IP can result in vital knowledge or assets being stolen, sold, and distributed outside of your control — including to your biggest competitors.


Earlier, a lot of physical labour, time and money were spent to steal a trade secret or make a pirated version of anything. But in the present scenario these works can be done easily sitting at one place without shedding too much time and money on it and without leaving any proof of it. Pirated digital copies of copyrighted work transmitted over the Internet are known as "warez."


Cybersquatting, reversing domain names in the form of hijacking are a few ways that cyber theft also take place.


Some of the ways through which one can protect IP from cyber theft are:

  • Frequently updating the list of IPs’ that need to be secured.

  • The company can increase the security to access its trade secrets.

  • It can reduce the number of people who can access their trade secrets.

  • Company needs to be up to date with software systems.

  • Constantly checking for some unusual cyber activities.

  • Constantly educate their employees about cyber security.

  • Constructing some threat mitigating programmes.

  • Installing up-to date anti-virus software.

  • Allowing employees to reach only some classified data.

A case in point was Napster, an online platform that enabled the illegal distribution of music through peer-to-peer file sharing (A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 2001). HBO (a US channel network that requires viewers to pay to view content) experienced millions of dollars in lost US revenue when episodes of one of its TV series, Game of Thrones, were leaked online for free viewing (Denham, 2015). Scripts of Game of Thrones' episodes and the unaired episodes of the HBO TV shows were also leaked online following a data breach that HBO experienced in 2017 (Gibbs, 2017).


Trade secrets are plans for a higher speed computer, designs for a highly fuel-efficient car, a company's manufacturing procedures, or the recipe for a popular salad dressing, cookie mix, or barbeque sauce. These secrets are owned by the company and give it a competitive edge. Theft of trade secrets damages the competitive edge and therefore the economic base of a business. Trade secrets are valuable information about business processes and practices that are secret and protect the business' competitive advantage.


Unlike other forms of intellectual property, trade secrets are protected without registration, at least in India and thus can be protected for an unlimited period of time, through the clauses of a contract. The purpose of the theft of a trade secret offline and/or online is to gain an unfair competitive advantage.


Many cyber-thieves have turned to IP theft as their primary focus because it’s often easier than stealing credit card numbers or other forms of digital currency. IP thieves can operate from anywhere in relative anonymity, and armed with the latest malware like Keyloggers, Cross Site Scripting, Drive-by Downloads, Ramscraping, Man-in-theBrowser etc, they pose a major threat to the world’s intellectual property. As such, companies must recognize unauthorized IP and computer system access sources and develop protocols to protect their IP and critical systems.


PROTECTION:


When investigating theft of IP cases in their database, CERT found that very few insiders steal intellectual property in order to sell it. Rather, they steal it to take with them to a new job, to start a competing business, or to take to a foreign government or organization (Refer The Motorola Case, 2012). It’s relatively easy for insiders to steal IP during normal working hours because, in many cases, these insiders already have authorized access. This can make it challenging to distinguish between access for legitimate purposes and access with intent to steal.


There are various ways that a company can protect their IP against insider attacks, like evaluating who knows about the IP, educating employees against the repercussions and ensuring security of the classified data.


India, in itself, has started taking strict measures to curb this offence. Telangana Intellectual Property Crime Unit (TIPCU) is one of the first unit that has been launched to deal with the IP crime.The IT Act and the UDRP have launched various processes for the resolutions of disputes.


With the increase in the number of frauds and cyber related crime, the Government is coming up with refined regulations to protect the interest of the people and safeguard against any mishappenning on the internet. Further, stronger laws have been formulated with respect to protection of “sensitive personal data” in the hands of the intermediaries and service providers (body corporate) thereby ensuring data protection and privac

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