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COVID-19 and Intellectual Property Concerns

Thanks to the global pandemic, more companies are considering the continuation of remote work for part of their workforce through the near future. During this unprecedented time, one of the critical factors under consideration with remote work teams is how to ensure your company’s intellectual property is protected. This concern includes hackers, disgruntled employees, and employees working from home who are not properly implementing security precautions. 

Increase in data breaches and security attacks

During the global pandemic, a large majority of companies were forced to manage employees working from home. Unless a company has prior experience with remote work teams, implementing all of the security precautions necessary to protect sensitive data access, there is an increased risk of a data breach. According to CNBC, during the first quarter of 2020, the incidents of breaches increased more than 250 percent. No business, regardless of size, is exempt from the potential of being attacked.

Understanding the risks of a breach of security

While there may be internal controls within the confines of a regular work environment, there is a high chance that employees don’t have the same security measures when working remotely. Employees can fall victims to phishing, breaches in wireless technology, and corruption of data stored in the cloud. This risk means access to vital company information, including:

  • Internal communication between staff members
  • Customer lists
  • Shareholder data
  • Trade secrets
  • Non-public information regarding securities position changes
  • Any other intellectual property your employees may have access to

The more employees a company has working remotely, the higher the risk they are taking. Protection of intellectual property and shareholder information is essential, and understanding the steps businesses can take to protect private data is key to keeping information safe.

Steps companies can take to ensure security

Protecting the security of data when employees are working from home is essential. Security steps may include:

  • Virtual private networks (VPN) – companies can take advantage of secure networks to limit the number of people who access the back-end data stored in the company’s system.
  • Limiting backups of data to personal devices – while backing up data is important, employees should use caution when backing up company information on personal computers or private clouds. The more copies available in less secure areas of the cloud, the more likely companies will suffer a breach.
  • Prohibit the use of unsecured networks – employees should avoid logging into their workspace from coffee shops, libraries, or other public networks. These locations often use unsecured networks, which could result in data breaches.
  • Avoiding prying eyes and ears – managers should advise employees of the risks of leaving computers unattended even when they are at home. Locking the workstations when walking away is imperative. When scheduling conference calls or other internal discussions, ensure everyone on the call is in a private area where information cannot be overheard by those who may pose a risk.

Any steps taken internally to minimize intellectual property risk means that companies will fare much better during these challenging times.

When data breaches occur despite your best efforts

When a company learns of a data breach, it must disclose the occurrence immediately. For publicly held companies, executives must send a report to all stakeholders, including employees, officers of the company, and shareholders. California businesses should always be aware of the risk of unauthorized disclosure of intellectual property. The more steps businesses can take to protect data, the better, and the more robust internal safeguards are, the less likely companies will suffer a data breach.