In An Increasingly Digital World, The Theft of Intellectual Property is On The Rise: How Can Organizations Prepare?

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Intangible assets, including inventions, software code, digital products, connected physical products, and data analytics, are becoming the fuel for the new global economy.

Over the last two decades, the volume of annual investments in 'intellectual property products' increased by 87% in the EU, while the volume of tangible investments increased by only 30%, according to a study in 2020 conducted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

Intellectual property (IP) rights are titles for patents, trade-marks, designs, copyright, geographical indications, plant variety rights, as well as trade secrets, which help companies and creators protect and value their intangible assets.

The same study reported that IPR-intensive industries generated 29.2% (63 million) of all jobs in the EU during the period 2014-2016; 9% of all employment in the EU (83.3 million) can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to IPR-intensive industries; and 45% of the total economic activity (GDP) in the EU is attributable to IPR-intensive industries, worth €6 trillion.

The trends are similar in other countries, as we are a more connected world, with massive volumes of data and transactions occurring over the Internet and cloud-based platforms.

Steps are being taken to update the legal frameworks that ensure IP frameworks are fit for the digital age, as more and more government agencies take steps to update the legal framework, using technologies, including AI and blockchain, to improve transparency and facilitate compliance. Large global enterprises are also investing, and their investments have risen after the coronavirus pandemic still raging worldwide has shown that the current IP system is not effective enough.

We caught up with Orhan Yildirim, CTO of Ironsphere, a global cybersecurity platform that helps organizations control access to sensitive and confidential information through Privileged Access Management software, to find out what they are seeing, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.

"Intellectual property rights must be protected even before patents are filed and granted," Yildirim said, "especially given the pace at which innovative vaccines are being developed, and the billions of dollars pharma companies stand to make when those vaccines go to market. While we've seen a huge uptick in the adoption of zero-trust access management solutions across several industries, including banking and finance, government agencies, and tech companies, in the pharma space, the need is extremely urgent."

Orhan Yildirim says the sense of urgency is coming from the need to secure who, what, when, and how highly sensitive information is being shared, not only internally but among ecosystem partners. "The big pharma companies had no choice but to move very quickly last year, and this created a massive threat risk and attack surface, compounded by the fact that millions of people had to work from home. We have tools to address this fragmentation and reduce complexity, even in multi-cloud environments, and we've been able to implement in a matter of days to at least address the most obvious gaps."

This year, the pharma and other industry verticals are developing more sustainable, broader-reaching programs, according to Yildirim. "This is not a one-time fix; new technologies, for example, AI, are only adding to the challenge, so companies like ours and the enterprises we serve must constantly be evaluating the increasingly sophisticated methods well-funded adversaries are developing, making breaches even harder to find and control. It is encouraging to see governments stepping up," he explained, "for example developing recommendations for organizations, which CISA and the FBI routinely publish in the US, as well as developing international cooperation programs with organizations, including INTERPOL."

Yildirim also recommended that Global Security Operation Centers (GSOCs) strive to provide a full range of protection, with threat intelligence and management solutions. "A growing number of GSOCs are now prioritizing threats and developing incident response plans, but planning is just one important step. Automation is critical to implement and constantly provide protection against the theft of IP, given the size and scope of the web. Ensuring access to systems by employees, vendors, or partners is a key pillar of an effective strategy – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Special Correspondent

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