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How to Prevent Intellectual Property Leakage for Businesses

  • 22 Apr 2024
  • 4 min read

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Your company's Intellectual Property (IP) is super important now, even more than physical stuff. But that means it's growing value makes it a bigger target for cyberattacks, which makes us witness more cases of IP theft than any other asset. Reports say the USA sees about 12,000 IP cases each year.

Protecting against IP theft is a big deal in cybersecurity, keeping CISOs and CSOs on their feet worldwide. In this article, we'll talk about how your IP could get swiped and share some top strategies for keeping it safe.

What is Intellectual Property Theft?


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Intellectual Property (IP) theft refers to the unlawful use, reproduction, or distribution of someone else's intellectual assets without permission. This can include anything from software IP, inventions, creative works, trade secrets and  proprietary information, depriving creators of their rightful ownership that can result in significant financial and reputational harm.

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says IP theft in the US could be costing us between $225 billion to $600 billion every year. With numbers like these, it's clear businesses need to step up to protect their IP.

What is Intellectual-Property Leakage in Terms of Source Code?

Source code is the human-readable instruction that is written by software developers to create computer programs. It's basically the blueprint that defines how a software application functions.

For example, let's say a software company develops a popular mobile game. The source code for the game contains all the instructions about how it operates, its UI/UX, etc. If someone gains unauthorized access to this source code and reproduces it to create a similar game, it would be a form of intellectual property leakage. 

What are the Risks of a Source Code Leak?

If the source code leaks, it can cause several problems:

  1. Hackers can exploit app vulnerabilities
  2. Customer data may be compromised
  3. Employees face identity theft risks
  4. Legal issues can arise
  5. Competitors could steal important information if they get hold of the source code

4 Main Types of Intellectual Property Theft


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Let’s explore the four main types of intellectual property theft: 

  1. Patent Infringement: This is when someone uses, makes, or sells a patented invention without permission. It leads to legal action to protect the inventor's rights.
  2. Copyright Infringement: It happens when someone uses, copies, or shares copyrighted material like books or music without permission. It can land them in legal trouble.
  3. Trademark Infringement: This occurs when someone uses a logo or slogan that's too similar to a registered trademark. It can confuse customers and damage the trademark owner's reputation.
  4. Trade Secret Misappropriation: This is when someone leaks or steals confidential business information like secret formulae or customer lists. It's done to gain an unfair advantage in the market.

Key Insights: 4 Historical Business IP Theft

  1. Xerox and Apple: In the 1970s, Xerox developed groundbreaking tech like the graphical user interface and mouse. However, Apple adopted these innovations without permission, sparking legal battles over intellectual property rights.
  2. Samsung and Apple: In the smartphone arena, Apple accused Samsung of mimicking its design, including features like rounded corners and grid layouts. This led to a lengthy legal showdown over who owned these design elements.
  3. Google and Oracle: Oracle took Google to court over the use of Java in its Android OS, raising questions about fair use and software interface protection.
  4. Uber and Waymo: Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., alleged that Uber stole its self-driving car technology secrets. The dispute ended with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million in equity in 2018.

How to Protect Intellectual Property?

For CISOs, where their IP is the key to success, understanding the threat of theft isn't just a duty — it's essential for survival and progress. Below are the minimum steps you should take to keep your IP secure.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)


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ZTNA makes sure that access to valuable IP is tightly regulated, no matter where or how users connect. Whether someone's working from home or logging in from an outside network, ZTNA checks their identity, device, and other details before letting them access sensitive resources.

Checking identity means only the right people can get to the IP, keeping out unauthorized users. Making sure devices are healthy ensures only safe and properly set-up gadgets can connect, lowering the risk of hacked devices. Contextual info, like what the user does and where they are, adds extra layers of security, ensuring access is given only to those who really need it.


Use encryption tech to protect sensitive data, like intellectual property, whether it's in transit or at rest. With strong encryption, even if someone gets hold of the data, they can't make sense of it, keeping it safe from unauthorized access.

Access Controls

Access controls are super important for keeping intellectual property safe. This means only letting authorized users get in. We do this by using strict methods like making sure users are who they say they are, assigning access based on their roles, and managing privileges based on what they need to do their jobs. 

With these steps, we make sure only the right people can get to our sensitive IP, cutting down on the chances of it being stolen or exposed to unauthorized eyes.

Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

Require employees, contractors, and business partners to sign NDAs to protect confidential information and trade secrets. NDAs legally bind parties to maintain confidentiality and prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of intellectual property.

Regular Audits and Monitoring

This involves routine reviews of systems, networks, and access logs to identify any unauthorized access or suspicious behavior. By staying vigilant, we can detect security incidents in real-time and take swift action to mitigate risks. 

This proactive approach ensures the integrity of our intellectual property assets and allows us to continually improve our security measures for stronger protection.

Employee Training and Awareness

Make sure your team understands why protecting intellectual property is crucial and teach them the best ways to keep it safe. Give them training on handling sensitive info, spotting phishing emails, and knowing what to do if they suspect a security problem. This helps everyone stay alert and ready to keep our data secure.

What Should I Do If Source Code Leaks?

If your source code is leaked, quick action is key to limit any potential damage and protect your intellectual property. PureDome's Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) can be a lifesaver here. With ZTNA, access to sensitive stuff like source code is tightly controlled based on who you are and where you're coming from, no matter where you are. 

This means you can quickly shut down unauthorized access to the leaked code and stop it from spreading further. Plus, their network security pros are ready to help you out right away. Using these security tools gives you the power to swiftly deal with a source code leak, keeping your IP safe