Calendar Icon White
January 2, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

6 Ways to Prevent IP Theft in 2024 & Beyond

IP theft refers to stealing business ideas, inventions, patents, copyrights, or trade secrets exclusive to an individual or a business. Misappropriation and unauthorized use or distribution of intellectual property is a punishable offense and results in lawsuits

 6 Ways to Prevent IP Theft in 2024 & Beyond
Calendar Icon White
January 2, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

6 Ways to Prevent IP Theft in 2024 & Beyond

IP theft refers to stealing business ideas, inventions, patents, copyrights, or trade secrets exclusive to an individual or a business. Misappropriation and unauthorized use or distribution of intellectual property is a punishable offense and results in lawsuits


In 2020, a 21-year-old from California took the world by storm when he admitted to hacking into the Nintendo servers and stealing and leaking confidential data to the public about the upcoming Nintendo Switch video game console. 

He isn’t alone though. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Intellectual property theft costs the US $225 billion to $600 billion annually. With 12,000+ intellectual property theft cases being filed each year, businesses have been spurred into developing strategies to prevent IP theft.

This article covers the implications of IP theft and ways to prevent intellectual property theft cases.

What is Intellectual Property? 

Intellectual property is a set of intangible assets that are exclusive to an organization or an individual. “Intangible” means that these assets  do not have a physical existence but definitely have legal and material value. 

There are four main types of intellectual properties:

  • Copyrights: These protect original authorships for software, music, books, movies, and other intellectual work. 
  • Patents: Patents typically grant exclusive rights for a particular invention, for a specified period. 
  • Trademarks: Trademarks are used to safeguard any name, device, or symbol associated with a business, its products or services. Unlike copyrights and patents, trademarks can last permanently if renewed every ten years.
  • Trade secrets: Trade secrets refer to confidential information that gives a business a competitive edge in the market.

What is Intellectual Property Theft? 

IP theft refers to stealing business ideas, inventions, patents, copyrights, or trade secrets exclusive to an individual or a business. Misappropriation and unauthorized use or distribution of intellectual property is a punishable offense and results in lawsuits along with loss of reputation, sales, and business growth.

These thefts can take place in the following ways:

  • Privilege abuse
  • Human errors 
  • Insider threats 
  • Hacking

What are the Different Types of IP Thefts?

Intellectual Property thefts can be categorized as: 

  • Patent infringement: A key example is manufacturing or selling a product that uses a patented technology without using a valid license.
  • Copyright infringement: Illegal download and distribution of movies, music, etc., that are protected by copyrights is a popular occurrence.
  • Trade secret theft: A common example is an employee quitting a company and taking all the trade secrets to a competitor. 
  • Trademark infringement: Selling counterfeit products with a brand’s logo or name is a primary example.

What are Some of the Top Cases of IP Theft in Recent Years?

The 2022 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report divulges some shocking statistics.

Besides insiders, a few other cases of IP theft have stolen the headlines in recent years. Here is a list:

  • Qualcomm’s trade secrets misappropriated by Apple in 2017
  • Google LLC vs. Oracle America Inc: Infringement of copyrighted material 
  • Huawei stealing classified information about a phone-testing robot from T-Mobile
  • Nintendo hacker stealing confidential information about gaming consoles 

Top 6 Ways to Prevent Intellectual Property Theft in 2024 & Beyond

Following some of the iconic cases of IP theft, organizations are leaving no stone unturned to stop these incidents in their tracks. Let us walk you through some of the tried and true techniques.

1. Tightening access controls and authorizations

What happens if your source code gets stolen? Or worse, leaked by an insider? The IP data of your customers often coexists with these source codes. That means you lose control over critical customer data and sensitive information such as passwords and encryption keys. 

Tightening access controls and authorizations is pivotal to mitigating IP data theft. Organizations need to define “who” can access “what” IP data (e.g. source code repositories) and “when”. The access context must be verified and authenticated even for your privileged users. 

Leveraging Multifactor Authentication (MFA) alongside passwords is a great way to add another layer of security beyond the perimeter. Once your users, especially the ones with elevated access privilege, are authenticated, enforce access control policies to let them perform specific tasks mapped to their roles. 

The Strac Advantage:

Strac’s Data Loss Prevention (DLP) capabilities eliminate the leakage of IP data from SaaS and AI apps by scanning (discovering), classifying and remediating sensitive IP data, such as confidential documents, code, etc. across communication channels like Slack, O365, GDrive, ChatGPT, and other SaaS apps.

Strac typically offers the following remediation actions:

  • Redaction: Identifies and redacts blocks of sensitive customer data across communication channels such as Slack, emails, etc. 
  • Encryption: Strac DLP employs real-time detection and encryption mechanisms, leveraging advanced algorithms to identify and protect sensitive IP data.
  • Deletion: Strac’s Machine Learning technology helps automatically remove sensitive data from all types of documents while making sure the authorized users can access the deleted (or masked) data in the Strac UI vault.

In addition to IP, you can also protect other sensitive data elements like PII, PHI, PCI, Identification, and more. 

View the complete Strac catalog of sensitive data elements

2. Periodic audits for IP protection

Quarterly and annual audits have become a business imperative to identify gaps and vulnerabilities in IP protection strategies. These mainly include:

  • Product and process features that need patenting 
  • Identifying missing non-disclosure agreements 
  • Potential for licensing IP in new markets and channels 
  • Uncovering unused assets and eliminating additional costs

The Strac Advantage

Strac’s DLP integration for your SaaS apps helps identify and redact sensitive IP data across communication channels. Strac lets you define custom policies on what data elements you need to redact, who you should provide access to, and obtain detailed audit reports. 

For instance, the Strac Zendesk app redacts (a.k.a masks) sensitive attachments while still allowing authorised users to view the Zendesk tickets in the Strac UI vault. Businesses can define and configure a list of sensitive IP data elements to redact. This may include SSN, debit card details, passport, etc. 

The compliance and security officers can download detailed audit reports of which user accessed what messages and when. Watch the app in action below.

Also read: Best practices for enterprise data protection

3. Identify and conceal sensitive data elements

Companies often store sensitive data in the cloud, and users often copy such data on their personal devices when working remotely. To protect these IP assets, organizations need to classify them in the order of sensitivity. 

The next step is to identify which internal users, third-party vendors, partners, and contractors have access to that data and classify them. For example, if Sarah from the product team has access to confidential information on a new product your company is launching, she belongs to the high-risk user category. 

Your classified data includes but is not limited to: 

  • PII (names, DOB, contact information)
  • PHI (medical record IDs, biometric data)
  • Financial information: Bank account numbers, CVVs
  • Network information: IP addresses
  • Customizable rules
  • ITAR: Intellectual Property 

Identifying and masking these categories of high-risk data helps nip IP theft in the bud.

The Strac Advantage

Strac enables businesses to discover, classify, and redact sensitive data across Cloud and SaaS apps and endpoints. By integrating with your web apps, Strac lets you categorize and redact (mask) PII, financial, and health data. Its DLP capabilities allow users to set and configure which data is sensitive and which data elements are not aligned with the company’s data policies.

Here is an example of how Strac performs redaction against inline text content. The example below demonstrates how Strac protects IP data by performing redaction against a document in the vault.

Here is how a W2 tax return appears after redaction.

Strac sensitive data redaction

Read blog: A Comprehensive Guide to Sensitive Data Classification 

4. Enforce data security policies:

With cyber attackers getting smarter by the day, it is critical to establish organization-wide policies that:

  • Define how security threats should be addressed
  • Imposes controls to mitigate security threats
  • Define a recovery plan in case of a breach 
  • Incorporates security protocols employees should follow 

Enforcing DLP policies to prevent IP theft requires determining which user groups or roles to include or exclude, which applications will be covered, and what user activities will be subject to the policies.  

The Strac Advantage

Preventing IP misuse and theft becomes challenging when teams operate across geographies and access IP data on multiple devices. Strac lets you implement centralized management for policies and updates, enabling uniform data security across all endpoints. Strac’s unified data security and compliance suite provides a user management and control dashboard for seamless monitoring and management.

Strac’s data retention and disposal policies allow you to automatically archive or delete data that is not compliant with the organizational rules. 

Related read: Enterprise Data Security Best Practices

5. Incident response plan

Organizations must implement robust and comprehensive incident response plans to fortify IP data and mitigate risks. A critical part of establishing such plans is to detect and respond to suspicious user activity patterns. 

Let’s say Paul from the Finance department has attempted to download volumes of sensitive payroll data outside of his work hours from an unknown IP address. This could either be a sign of privilege misuse, or Paul’s account may have been hacked. Such incidents should be immediately logged and reported, leading to further investigations. 

The Strac Advantage

Strac lets you monitor API key usage to detect unauthorized or suspicious activities promptly. Scrutinizing the audit logs regularly lets you in on any attempted breach or IP theft. Conducting post-incident analysis helps to revisit and refine existing DLP strategies.

6. Employee data security and privacy training

Protecting IP data begins with your employees. Conducting regular workshops helps them keep abreast of the latest threats and vulnerabilities and educates them on the growing importance of protecting IP data.

Here is a quick checklist of the employee training activities companies need to organize:

  • Organizing cybersecurity training for employees every month or quarter
  • Notifying employees about reforms/updates to cybersecurity policies
  • Conducting data security and protection quizzes and rewarding winners
  • Creating and circulating materials for understanding the best practices for protecting IP data of customers.

Provide a link to the blog: Guide to protecting customer information 

How Strac DLP Protects IP, Aka Your Crown Jewels ?

Strac SaaS DLP (Data Loss Prevention) & and Endpoint DLP protect businesses by discovering (scanning), classifying and remediating sensitive data like SSN, Drivers License, Credit Cards, Bank Numbers, IP (Confidential Data), etc. across all communication channels like O365, Slack, G-Workspace (Gmail, Google Drive), Email, One Drive, Sharepoint, Jira, Zendesk, Salesforce, etc. and also endpoints like Mac, Windows.

Our SaaS & Endpoint DLP solutions equip your businesses with the following capabilities to prevent IP theft:

  • Discover, Classify, and Protect sensitive data: Strac’s AI lets you detect sensitive data with accuracy and precision across volumes of unstructured texts and documents.
  • Remediate Sensitive Data: Strac provides remediation actions like Redaction, Blocking, Alerting, Encryption. Strac’s redaction replaces sensitive data with a link to Strac’s secure Vault.
  • API integration: With Strac, you can also leverage Strac’s RESTful APIs to do the same thing alongside their native No-Code integrations
  • Dashboard and Analytics: See all sensitive data discovered and remediated by Strac in Strac’s Vault with beautiful graphs and analytics results like which employees shared what sensitive data from which devices, etc.
  • Achieve Compliance & Comply with Regulations/Privacy Laws: Strac Data Discover, DLP (Data Leak Prevention) and CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker) solutions will help you achieve PCI, SOC 2, NIST CSF, HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, India’s DPDP (Digital Personal Data Protection) 

Elevate your data security and prevent IP theft cases with Strac’s data classification and DLP integrations. Schedule a demo today.

Founding Engineer. Ex-Amazon Payments Security Engineer for 10 years.

Latest articles

Browse all