© Andrew Beale (2017), all rights reserved

About the Author
Andrew Beale OBE

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has awarded Andrew with an OBE for his "services to intellectual property and business".

Previously a Consultant to the United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organization (Geneva), Andrew is an Associate Professor in Intellectual Property Law and the Director of IP Wales, an award winning £4m initiative aimed at providing SMEs with the knowledge and financial means to commercialise their intellectual assets.

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Our message is a simple but important one: 

all firms, whatever their size, have 'trade secrets' which are vulnerable to online attack.

I have been working with small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) over the last two decades to help identify and protect their intellectual assets. Corporate awareness of intellectual assets is now at the level where they are no longer perceived as being the 'hidden assets' of the business. The next big challenge facing SMEs is to recognise and respond to the online threats to these intellectual assets.

Cybercrime is fast becoming one of the greatest threats facing businesses and consumers today, with incidents of hacking, fraud, and theft hitting the front pages on an all too regular basis. Cybercriminals are targeting businesses with increasing intensity and complexity, with some of the world’s largest companies falling victim (Yahoo!, Adobe, JP Morgan Chase, and Sony Pictures to name but a few).

Traditionally the focus has been on governments and large corporations, but what of smaller businesses? Hackers are increasingly targeting SMEs, as they typically represent an easier target. In the Digital Age, data is the prize for the cybercriminal and any data which is of value to your business is a worthwhile target, including:

  • technical & scientific data –  formulas; software code; know-how details; product information relating to design/composition/performance; manufacturing information relating to raw materials; refining processes; specialised machinery

  • commercial data – business plan; marketing strategy; contract terms; supplier arrangements; customer profiles/preferences/requirements; sales methods

  • financial data –  customer credit card details; internal cost structure; price lists; salaries

  • negative data – dead-end research projects; failed manufacturing processes.

SMEs are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, with many taking little or no precautions against cyber threats in the mistaken belief that they are too small to attract the cybercriminal’s attention, or that they don’t possess any data worth stealing.

 

Examples of cyberattacks on SMEs include:

  • theft of intellectual property (IP) from innovative businesses (i.e. trade secrets & know-how), the loss of which seriously undermines a company’s attractiveness to both investors and prospective buyers of the business

  • ransoming of data, where the business is coerced into paying off hackers in order to retrieve or access stolen or frozen data

  • theft of customer data, including payment details, which exposes the business to lawsuits, regulatory fines for improper handling of personal data, and reputational damage.

 

This website is dedicated to helping SME Boards of Directors to better understand and better protect their business from the increasing threat of IP cybercrime. It's divided into several easy to understand sections:

 

1) The Cyber Threats section gives a high-level overview of the cyberattacks SMEs are particularly vulnerable to, as well as some of the techniques hackers use

 

2) The Protect the Business section offers guidance on the steps your business can take to better protect itself from cyberattacks

 

3) The Plan for the Worst section provides a checklist of actions your business should undertake in the event of a successful cyberattack, and guidance on how to minimise the damage done.

 

If you would like a hard copy of the issues discussed on this website then you can download a free copy of our SME Guide to IP Cybersecurity by clicking here

 

It is my sincere hope that ipcybersecurity.co.uk will be of great help in informing you about the risks your business faces, as well as the practical steps you can take to make sure your business is as safe as possible.