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Securing your most valuable assets

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It has long been said that a businesses’ most valuable asset is its information. When appropriately harnessed, data translates into actionable information into a plethora of things a company can benefit from, including which products are moving the fastest, what customers think and how services can be improved.

“Customer data bases for example, when properly analysed can give actionable insights to drive future marketing campaigns, or identify new markets,” says Jayson O’Reilly, director of sales and innovation at DRS.

He says it is part of the executives role to identify and leverage the data that is most beneficial to the business, turning it from an asset into a boost for the bottom line. “However, while the CIO understands the value of data, the majority of employees do not, and there is little understanding of the link between information and revenue.”

According to him, this lack of awareness can lead to security issues. “In an attempt to boost efficiency and effectiveness and exploit the benefits of sharing data, companies often give staff access to confidential and proprietary information that they don’t strictly need to do their jobs. Sales staff, for example, are shown confidential data such as product development plans, national trends and similar.”

Similarly, managers, engineers, research and development staff might also be given access to proprietary knowledge in order to best perform their roles. “However, should this information fall into competitors’ hands, the result could be disastrous for the company, and might even result in it shutting its doors,” says O’Reilly.

“Intellectual property is crucial to the vitality of today’s economy and a significant competitive advantage for any business. It is a driver of growth, creating incentives for entrepreneurs and investors to pledge the necessary funding for research and development, for new technologies and services, for process improvements,” he explains.

O’Reilly offers some tips on how businesses can protect their intellectual property. “Firstly, have good security tools and solutions in place. These should include data leakage, network monitoring and intrusion prevention.”

Following this, he says to identify all data in your business and know where it is stored. Once this is done, it is easier to evaluate its sensitivity and decide what steps to take to comply with data protection rules. “Don’t forget to enforce the principle of least privilege, making sure that no staff have access to sensitive data they simply don’t need.”

Next he says to make sure that employment contracts clearly state that ownership of all intellectual property developed for the business belongs to the business, and keep a detailed log that records the development of such information. “It is also a good idea to keep new innovations and inventions hush-hush until the business has decided that commercial viability justifies the expense of patent protection.”

Finally, O’Reilly advises that when dealing with the cloud, make sure that you understand any data residency issues, and take any necessary additional steps to protect your data that may be stored internationally.