As data breaches become an increasingly prevalent aspect of global commerce, intellectual property has emerged as one of the most common targets. Cyber criminals aren't exclusively interested in private data related to identification – they are also focused on stealing valuable ideas that could net millions. Tapping into consumers' personal information can have a limited potential gain compared to the opportunity of top-notch IP.
These cyberattacks can derive from a remote location or, as executives across the country continue to discover, an internal source as well. In-house employees can present businesses with some of the greatest threats to unreleased ideas, designs, names and images, among a host of other types of property.
Intellectual property theft through data breaches continues to permeate the business world, and biometric technology is an effective way to counter this type of threat.
High-profile tech hackers plead guilty
When considering intellectual property theft in the tech industry, look no further than a recent case involving Microsoft Corporation.
According to SC Magazine, four tech hackers pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100 million worth of intellectual property and proprietary data from Microsoft, Epic Games Inc., Zombie Studios and Valve Corporation. The theft took place between the spring of 2012 and April 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation noted. The hackers stole log-in data and used SQL injection to access trade secrets.
"The conspirators accessed and stole unreleased software, software source code, trade secrets, copyrighted and pre-release works and other confidential and proprietary information," the FBI said in a statement, according to the news outlet. "Members of the conspiracy also stole financial and other sensitive information relating to the companies – but not their customers – and certain employees of such companies."
The broad effects of a global IP case
A federal grand jury recently indicted Sinovel Wind Group Co., a Beijing-based wind turbine maker, on charges that it stole technology from American Superconductor Corp., a company based in Devens, Massachusetts. The news outlet noted that four of Sinovel's wind turbines in Massachusetts contained software stolen from American Superconductor.
"[The case] illustrates the heavy baggage that some Chinese firms carry on their journey to global markets," Thilo Hanemann, research director at Rhodium Group, a New York firm that tracks global investments, told the news outlet. "Their increasing business interests and investments abroad expose them to foreign courts and litigation. For competitors and business partners of Chinese firms, that's good news."
"While other forms of cybersecurity can help ward off threats, biometric technology is the most effective method of intellectual property security."
This case could lead to broader effects on mergers and acquisitions between American and Chinese companies. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S, a government panel, already heavily vets these kinds of deals to ensure national security. The alleged Sinovel theft could only deepen this process.
"You have industries that are technologically significant, that are significant to our security," Thomas F. Holt Jr., a partner at K&L Gates, a Boston-based law firm, told the news outlet. "You add a dash of the [recent] hacking concerns – all of this could cause U.S. government officials to take a jaundiced view of Chinese investment in American-owned enterprises."
The role of biometrics for IP
Businesses such as Microsoft and American Superconductor should emphasize biometric security to protect their intellectual property. This valuable type of information is frequently targeted by hackers because of the potential gain.
With its easy-to-use fingerprint reader, Digitus Biometrics allows users to keep a close watch on access control in a data center. Its technology stores a 384-byte fingerprint template that cannot be fooled by the wrong finger. While other forms of cybersecurity can help ward off threats, biometric technology is the most effective method of intellectual property security.