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Securing the 'Company Jewels'

Enterprises struggle with how to define their intellectual property - and how to keep it safe from the bad guys

Of all the data stored by your company, which would be considered "intellectual property" -- and what special steps do you take to secure it?

If your company is like most others, you probably know that intellectual property -- the "other" IP -- is the biggest target the crooks have on their want lists right now. But your methods for discovering and protecting IP are frustratingly manual and time-consuming.

These are some of the conclusions of a new study scheduled to be released by Enterprise Strategy Group next week. The study, sponsored by security tool vendor Reconnex, shows that many enterprises are struggling in their efforts to secure intellectual property.

"When we asked people how they were doing in securing IP, most of them said they felt their organizations were doing a good job, if not excellent," notes Jon Oltsik, the ESG analyst who authored the study. "Yet when we asked them about their spending plans for the coming year, 54 percent said they are going to spend more to secure IP. We see a real disconnect there."

The problem, Oltsik says, is that although enterprises are mostly satisfied that they are keeping their IP safe, they are mostly dissatisfied with the amount of time and effort they have to expend to do it.

Some 55 percent of respondents say they rely on manual scans of file servers in order to identify IP, defining it by content type, keywords, author, or other criteria, according to the ESG study. Sixty-eight percent of organizations said they spend more than 40 person-hours or more each quarter to discover and classify their IP. Fifty-six percent of enterprises with 20,000 or more employees said they spend more than 80 person-hours per quarter on IP discovery.

"This simply can't scale to meet growing security and compliance needs," the study says. Yet, at the same time, the threat to intellectual property is growing all the time. "Attacks are becoming more targeted, more financially motivated," Oltsik says. "The bad guys want to steal what they can sell, and often, that's a company's IP."

As a result, upcoming spending on intellectual property security will probably be geared toward automating the IP discovery, classification, and protection processes, Oltsik suggests. "There are some good emerging tools out there -- tools for doing classification, tools for doing port blocking, tools for doing [data leak prevention]. I think those are areas where we'll see more investment."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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