Last week, I wrote about how state-sponsored cyber attacks could increase dramatically under President Trump. As a result, U.S. businesses, and our overall economy, are facing substantial risks that very few are talking about. Now is the time to take action. Below are five steps you should consider now to protect your trade secrets.

Since my last post, the anti-China rhetoric emanating from President Elect Trump’s circle has escalated. For example, just today, Carly Fiorina had the following comments after meeting with Trump:

We then got down to more serious business, and spent a fair amount of time talking about China as probably our most important adversary and a rising adversary. We talked about hacking, whether it’s Chinese hacking or purported Russian hacking.

Assuming she is accurately conveying Trump’s comments, this is a remarkable statement. It speaks to Trump’s hostile attitude towards China. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am not a geopolitics expert. But all U.S. companies need to be very concerned about the possibility of a breakdown in U.S.-China relations. China almost certainly has the capacity to initiate cyber attacks against the U.S.’s internet infrastructure. And China has proven its ability to successfully steal trade secrets from U.S. companies.

All companies, regardless of size, need to be prepared. Given the uncertainty, I recommend the following steps to protect your trade secrets:

  1. Determine whether any of your trade secrets can be maintained offline, even at the cost of organizational efficiency. In the past, most companies I’ve encountered strongly resist this type of protection. But given the unprecedented risk, companies need to at least explore offline storage of trade secrets.
  2. At a minimum, securely maintain offline copies of all trade-secret documents that can be accessed if a cyber attack disrupts internet access.
  3. Invest in backup solutions that will allow you to restore lost data.
  4. Implement a disaster plan that can be initiated in the event of widespread loss of internet connectivity.
  5. Work with an attorney specializing in trade secrets to make sure you are taking all reasonable efforts to protect your trade secrets and to prepare for the possibility of misappropriation.

We are entering a highly unpredictable period in foreign relations. And with unpredictability comes risk. This risk is on top of the already business-critical threats of cyber attacks and trade-secret theft that have accompanied our increasingly interconnected world. Companies need to act immediately to secure their information assets.

 

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