If you’re looking to stir up some lively dinner conversation, bring up the name Edward Snowden. The former intelligence analyst is a lightning rod for hot debates over what constitutes espionage and the rights of people versus the rights of the government.

As I’m sure you know by now, Snowden is accused by the U.S. government of leaking details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press this past spring. This  case got me thinking about security and its importance in the business world. While a breach of security within a company may not have the same tumultuous impact as one involving a country, it can still wreak havoc and have severe repercussions and cause companies to lose millions of dollars in profits.

Many companies such as LSI have intellectual property that needs to be closely guarded because of its great value and the significant financial investment that went into its development.  

Corporate espionage is not uncommon in the business world, especially when competition is intense and companies are constantly trying to one-up each other. A timely example is a Massachusetts technology firm, known as AMSC, that’s embroiled in a legal battle over its intellectual property rights. News media coverage has exposed “the sometimes tawdry world of economic espionage between companies battling for preeminence in emerging energy markets.”

In AMSC’s case, news reports indicate the company has laid off hundreds of workers and lost millions of dollars as the result of software theft. It’s also spent an untold amount of money pursuing the perpetrators in court, and its legal efforts are far from over.

Ensuring strict security key to prevention
Preventing corporate espionage (also referred to as industrial espionage) isn’t impossible, but companies need to be diligent and constantly focused on ensuring security protocols are strictly followed. We have a host of preventive measures that we enforce at LSI, several of which I believe apply in general to many companies, especially those with an international presence.

Many of these security steps are just a matter of common sense, such as prohibiting visitors from entering offices and other areas where sensitive information, material or products are kept. Or keeping laptops with you or storing them in a secure place when traveling.

Other measures include encrypting or password-protecting sensitive data; carefully using cloud-based services, having non-disclosure agreements in place when appropriate, and using complex passwords on computers and smart phones.

Security often extends beyond protecting a company’s trade secrets. If you’re dealing with customers’ proprietary property, that needs to be closely guarded as well. One slip and you could jeopardize a client’s livelihood and lose it as a customer forever.

Working with employees helps companies remain on safe ground
At LSI, we have a vigorous training program around IP protection. We are continually educating our employees as well as contractors about proper security protocols. Reinforcing these procedures is an ongoing and necessary part of doing business. Companies need to work hand in hand with their employees to make sure they understand the importance of keeping intellectual property, trade secrets and other sensitive material secure.

In today’s world, security can’t be left to chance. There’s too much at stake to be that cavalier.

Hayden Thomas is responsible for compensation and benefits, talent management and employee relations. Previously, he led the company’s manufacturing supply chain,... Read more

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