IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Story image

Trade secret protection rapidly rising up the corporate agenda

By Shannon Williams
Thu 17 Jun 2021

Corporates fear cybercrime and employee leaks are the biggest risks to protecting trade secrets, according to a new report. 

The report, commissioned by global law firm CMS and conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, reveals that trade secret protection is rapidly rising up the corporate agenda as firms widely recognise the commercial imperative to protect vulnerable assets in light of more business conducted online and across borders.

The report found three in four senior corporate executives believe increasing financial investment is necessary to protect intangible trade secrets, yet only half (55%) have taken active steps to restrict digital and physical access to confidential information. It also found proactively minimising employee leaks by making it more central to corporate culture is rising in prominence as intangible assets grow in complexity

With more companies relying on an ever-greater proportion of intangible or ‘secretive’ assets, the findings show a marked shift in how executives are planning to tackle employee leaks, supply chain vulnerability, corporate espionage and cyber-attacks. According to a global survey of 314 senior executives across a range of industries, the three most valuable types of proprietary information held by organisations are customer databases (42%), product technology (40%), and R&D information (23%).

The report, ‘Open secrets? Guarding value in the intangible economy’, reveals that trade secret protection is no longer just a concern for the legal department, but a top priority at the board and C-suite level. The majority (75%) of respondents agree that increasing financial investment was necessary to protect their trade secrets. Measures must be taken to raise awareness of these assets more widely among employees, with 28% of respondents viewing a lack of in-house experience with trade secrets as a safeguarding challenge.

The most significant threats to the security of trade secrets are weaknesses in cybersecurity (49%) and employee leaks (48%). As firms increasingly store and share sensitive information across virtual and distributed workforces, companies face a range of unpredictable insider threats, including intentional leaks from disgruntled employees. This is the biggest concern for the UK, whilst the fear of cybercrime is front-of-mind for business leaders in France, China and the US, worsened by poor internal cybersecurity expertise.

“Fifty years ago, a company’s value was derived solely from its physical capital. Today, the world’s most successful firms are built on intangible assets that are often secretive by nature – algorithms, customer data, product formulae," says Tom Scourfield, co-head of IP Group at CMS.

"This report shows that firms must start taking a more holistic approach to protecting these intangible assets, from computer software to company values balancing restrictions with incentives – and importantly engage every level of their workforce. Without this strategy, protecting trade secrets will remain an uphill battle for many," he says.

Significantly, four out of five of the top measures that companies are planning to implement over the next two years focus on minimising employee leaks. These range from harsher measures such as closer surveillance of employee’s electronic activity through to more collaborative approaches that centre on improving the company culture and introducing innovative staff incentives.

“Willingness to snoop” is highest in China, Singapore and the United States. It is also a top preferred measure for executives in Technology, Media and Telecommunications, with 36% of respondents planning to implement surveillance over the next two years, reflecting the growing tensions between employers and employees in the technology sector. Efforts to improve work culture are clearly felt more widely in other industries, with almost a third (31%) calling for corporate values to shift towards encouraging trade secret protection.

As companies become increasingly wary of cybercrime and ransomware attacks, the majority (82%) agree that leveraging cybersecurity software is key to protecting their organisation in the long-term. However, only half (53%) believe it is the most effective deterrent or have already restricted digital and physical access to confidential information (55%).

Hannah Netherton, employment partner at CMS adds: “It’s overwhelmingly clear that the threat of employee leaks is driving a need for new strategies to guard valuable assets. 

"Companies must find the right balance between perfecting their cybersecurity protections and creating a healthy company culture that incentivises trade secret protection and encourages speaking up through appropriate channels – even the most rigorous of protocols won’t prevent every employee leak or a disgruntled whistleblower," she says.

“The pandemic has opened doors to a digital workspace, where it’s easier for employees to accidentally or purposefully access and expose confidential information. 

"It is impossible to protect trade secrets if employees are not aware of the sensitivities around these assets, so putting the right values and measures in place has never been more important to an organisation’s success.”

Aukje Haan, co-head of commercial at CMS added: “With the introduction of the Directive on Trade Secrets, businesses will get a range of options to safeguard their most prized proprietary information. 

"However, there are prerequisites to be able to invoke those options. Identifying and taking reasonable steps will be crucial, from NDAs, cybersecurity efforts through to employee regulation, as well as specific requirements depending on the nature of the business, e.g., online businesses will need to take more cybersecurity measures whereas manufacturing companies will need to take more physical measures on the factory floor.“

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Digital Transformation
SAP partners with New Zealand Rugby for digital transformation
The multi-year partnership will see SAP advance NZR with its organisational operations, team performance, fan experience and sustainability goals.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft NZ and TupuToa to boost diversity in cybersecurity sector
Microsoft NZ has teamed up with TupuToa to co-develop a cyber security employment programme specifically aimed at creating more diversity in Aotearoa's cybersecurity sector.
Story image
Customer experience
The importance of service level management to customer experience
Staffing shortages have impacted site reliability engineers in particular since they are under extreme pressure to ensure that digital assets perform at optimum levels 24/7.
Story image
DevOps
Deloitte expands cloud observability practice with Dynatrace
Deloitte is expanding its cloud observability practice, including DevOps principles, AI/ML, cloud complexity management and software engineering.
Story image
Symbio
Symbio consolidates TNZI business to support APAC expansion
Symbio has recently announced the consolidation of its international business (TNZI) under the Symbio brand to support its Asia Pacific expansion strategy.
Story image
Contact Centre
Leveraging technology in contact centres to reduce attrition rates
Many organisations worldwide have accelerated DX to better respond to changing market drivers and business environments after the disruption of the pandemic.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
The post-pandemic workforce requires secure IAM capabilities
HID Global discusses what identity and access management means for organisations in today's convoluted digital world.
Story image
SaaS
The paradox of change, and how to get around it
The business decision to technologically transform should not come from an IT department but from the business itself.
Story image
Cybercrime
The ups and downs and runarounds of catching cybercriminals in NZ
We're becoming more and more aware of cybercrimes but how many criminals actually get caught? The New Zealand police explain why the answer is complicated.
Story image
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
GapMaps
GapMaps Live to improve brand decisions on physical locations
GapMaps has released its latest service GapMaps Live, giving more insights and features to help brands make better decisions about physical locations.
Exabeam
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
APAC
Top data and tech challenges for APAC banks - report
InterSystems’ new report finds that 87% of A/NZ banks experience frustrations and concerns in using their data to drive decision-making.
Story image
Sustainability
SoftIron named global leader for efficient DC infrastructure solutions
SoftIron has been named a global leader for supplying energy-efficient data infrastructure solutions for core-to-edge data centers after an assessment by Earth Capital Ltd.
Story image
Transport
Third-party automotive apps bear significant privacy risks
Mobile applications for connected cars provide various features to make life easier for motorists, but they can also be a source of risk.
Story image
Chorus
Chorus and Nokia launches first trial of 25G PON broadband
Chorus and Nokia have announced the successful demonstration of 25 gigabit per second fibre (Gbps) broadband technology at the Chorus Fibre Lab in Auckland. 
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft, Cloudian partnership offers data center flexibility
Cloudian’s HyperStore object storage platform is now integrated and validated to work with Microsoft SQ Server 2022, offering more flexible and scalable data centers.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
BYOD / Bring Your Own Device
How zero trust can lead the battle against ransomware
SecOps teams champion a zero trust strategy to support the fight against the escalating risk of cybercrime and help monitor threat actors across a network.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Data Protection
Information management capabilities to meet privacy requirements
Organisations with customers or operations across more than one country face a spate of new and proposed privacy and data protection laws.
Story image
Sustainability
Aligned Data Centers increases sustainability-linked loan
Aligned Data Centers has increased its sustainability-linked loan from $375 million to $1.75 billion to speed up the next phase of its strategic growth.
Story image
NVIDIA
NVIDIA announces a spate of new innovations at Computex 2022
NVIDIA has announced its latest innovations in data center, robotics, content creation, and gaming in a virtual keynote address on the opening day of Computex 2022 in Taipei.
Story image
Rackspace
Skills shortages hold orgs back from capitalising on cloud 2.0
Organisations are becoming more comfortable with sophisticated 'cloud 2.0' technologies, even as they confront difficulties in hiring and retaining IT talent.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner reveals top three tech trends for banks this year
Gartner says generative artificial intelligence, autonomic systems and privacy-enhancing computation are gaining traction in banking and investment services.
Story image
Cybersecurity
What every CISO must answer to enable a best-in-class security operations program
It has been widely reported recently that South Australian government employees have been the victims of a cyberattack.
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
DaaS
NetApp launches Spot PC, a new Desktop-as-a-Service solution
This is a new managed cloud DaaS solution with security, automation, observability and optimisation capabilities, designed for the needs of today.
Story image
Informatica
Informatica, Oracle enter strategic global cloud partnership
Oracle named Informatica as a preferred partner for enterprise cloud data integration and data governance for data warehouse and lakehouse solutions on OCI. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft NZ announces initiative for local SaaS businesses
Microsoft has announced a new initiative, bringing together all of its tools to help local SaaS businesses build, sell and grow their companies at scale.
Story image
Multi Cloud
Red Hat updates dev tools, empowers use of hybrid and multicloud
Red Hat has unveiled updates across its portfolio of developer tools, designed to help organisations build and deliver applications faster.
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
Digital Signage
MAXHUB's Digital Signage range to bolster boardroom productivity
The new MAXHUB Digital Signage technology is purpose-built to make every kind of team meeting more effective.
Story image
Hybrid Cloud
Barracuda expands cloud-native SASE platform
"The expansion of Barracuda's cloud-native SASE platform for hybrid deployment models and IIoT environments solves a number of challenges."
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Harnessing digital innovations to maximise loyalty programmes and improve CX
When it comes to the retail sector, merchants have never had access to so many different client touchpoints and data to understand their customers better.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft previews Power Platform website design offering
Microsoft has announced the preview of Power Pages, the fifth product in its Power Platform family, designed for low-code makers and professional developers.
Story image
Infosys
Consumer relationships with digital services continues to change
Two years of pandemic-induced reliance on technology for work has altered our relationship with digital apps and services, new research has found.