How to protect trade secrets in the cloud

In the current threat landscape, enterprises need to protect not only customer data but also trade secrets. But how do you protect personally identifiable information and trade secrets in the cloud? The short answer is that it's an ongoing process.

A data breach where customer data is stolen is costly and embarrassing. But losing your intellectual property to malicious actors can be much worse. Whether it’s corporate espionage or state-sponsored attacks, such security events are the new norm.

This makes it critical to prioritize the protection of intellectual property on-premise and on the cloud. After all, trade secrets are vital to an organization’s business strategy and its ability to maintain a competitive advantage. 

In other words, maintaining secrecy is critical to a trade secret's economic value. While there’s no specific set of rules to guide enterprises, there’s a general expectation that reasonable measures are taken to mitigate risk.

With the onset of the pandemic, it’s safe to say that most companies now leverage the cloud to achieve their objectives. 

So what steps can organizations take to protect trade secrets and business relevance? 

Whether it’s protecting sensitive customer data or trade secrets, it’s imperative that all stakeholders consistently follow security best practices (whether they work remotely or on-premise).

1. Always use secure devices to connect to the cloud

Your employees' personal computers and mobile devices generally don't have the same robust security protocols installed. So while it might be expensive, it’s critical to ensure cloud and enterprise security by providing corporate computers and mobile devices.

It’s also crucial to remind staff that all work-related communication must be initiated through enterprise devices and company-authorized software and systems. The applications on these machines should also embrace two-factor authentication.

The added benefit of this approach is that you can set up the machine to block the transfer of sensitive data and forensically analyze the devices to ensure that all confidential information has been returned when employees leave the organization.

You can also install “threat alert” tools on company machines to complement cloud security protocols. In this scenario, you can log user activity, limit downloads, and mitigate insider threats.

2. Reaffirm confidentiality policies

Remind employees about the company’s confidentiality policies that apply to them, whether they work from home or on-premise. For example, you can reaffirm the rule that staff are prohibited from downloading confidential information on external devices (if they are allowed to use them). 

Security teams must also remind staff of the policies that govern security protocols related to the access of sensitive information like trade secrets. If your privacy and confidentiality policies are lacking, address these issues immediately, and update them.

3. Engage in confidentiality training

Whenever something is unclear or whenever policies are updated, confidentiality training is vital to inform employees of what the organization considers to be confidential. It’s also essential to emphasize the consequences of breaching confidentiality policies.

This scenario will help get staff to acknowledge receipt and certify their understanding of corporate policies related to privacy and confidentiality. This is also an excellent opportunity to train staff to be alert to social engineering attacks and suspicious behavior. 

It’s a good idea to regularly engage in such training workshops to keep the information fresh in the minds of all stakeholders.

4. (Re-)Remind remote workers on how to discuss and view sensitive data

As remote working grows exponentially, it’s critical to keep reminding employees how to engage in discussions or view sensitive information. If they’re working from home, for example, they should find an isolated area before engaging in a conversation outside the purview of others (even if it’s their family).

If video conferencing is required, ensure that all communication is protected by end-to-end encryption. To add more layers to your security protocols, leverage password enabled meetings with randomly generated meeting IDs, disable any auto-recording applications, and always connect via VPN.

5. Enforce a need-to-know access policy

Continuously reevaluate access to sensitive enterprise data on a need-to-know basis. Depending on what projects employees are working on (at any given time), assess if they really require access to the data to complete their assigned tasks.

6. Encrypt all sensitive information

Encryption tools and technologies are your last line of defense if threat actors manage to penetrate enterprise infrastructure. So if the “unthinkable” does occur, the stolen data is rendered meaningless to hackers without decryption keys.

Key takeaways:

  • Always connect to enterprise infrastructure with company-owned devices
  • Reaffirm confidentiality policies with regular staff training
  • Remind remote workers about how they should discuss sensitive information off-premise
  • Leverage two-factor authentication
  • Always connect via a VPN
  • Enforce a need-to-know access policy
  • Always encrypt sensitive data

To learn more about how you can leverage robust security in the cloud, schedule a commitment-free consultation and demonstration.

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