The Covid 19 pandemic has driven businesses into a new era of remote work. We see how technology businesses adapt to the new normal of working from home. While this setup has advantages, it has created new challenges for companies in protecting their trade secrets.
Unlike patents, trade secrets require no procedural formalities for their protection. For this reason, the security of trade secrets falls under the company’s responsibility.
Increased risk of trade secret misappropriation
There are several ways in which trade secret misappropriation is more at risk in a work-from-home setup:
- Remote access: The risk of unauthorized access increases when employees use personal devices to access company information. For example, from cloud-based storage systems, email or other communication tools.
- Unsecured networks: Unsecured or public Wi-Fi networks can make it easier for hackers to access sensitive information.
- Lack of supervision: It is more challenging for managers to monitor employees’ activities due to the lack of face-to-face interaction.
- Physical security: There is no guarantee that employees have a secure workspace at home. Thus, it may increase the risk of theft, loss, or accidental disclosure of trade secrets.
These are just some of the vulnerabilities that may make it easier for employees working at home to misappropriate trade secrets. Companies need to take steps to mitigate these risks.
To address the challenges of trade secret protection in remote work, employers can implement the following solutions:
- Create a comprehensive policy covering remote work: The policy should include guidelines on how employees can access and use confidential information and rules for using personal devices and cloud services. Some simple examples include requiring employees to lock their computer screens when not in use and only accessing specific files or folders through a secure company VPN.
- Provide employees with regular training and education: Proper education can help employees become familiar with the information they need to protect. Regular training can help them identify suspicious behavior and prevent trade secret theft.
- Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements: By signing an NDA or a confidentiality agreement, employees become bound by law not to disclose business information to unauthorized parties. They agree to the legal consequences for a breach.
The shift to remote work has presented new challenges in trade secret protection. However, with the right policies, training and technology, businesses can safeguard confidential information.