As a small- to medium-sized business owner, you are particularly vulnerable to the theft of key assets on several fronts. Can you identify your key assets? Key assets represent knowledge that your business has that is critical to the operation of your business. These knowledge assets, as they are called, include such things as trade secrets, copyrighted material, agendas related to future plans for the company, confidential files, product design and research and development information. Basically, anything about your business that is essential to its core operation would be considered a knowledge asset.
Complacency Is Dangerous
If your business is relatively small, you may scoff at the idea that you have any kind of knowledge that someone else would want. Perhaps you don’t do research and development, and you run a streamlined operation with just a few members of management.
This kind of complacency is dangerous, however. If you take a minute to look at it from a competitor’s viewpoint, you might realize that you do indeed have information that could be used against your business.
Consider the possibility that a competitor wants to make you vulnerable to a lawsuit. Stealing your customer’s financial data and leaking or selling it would do that.
What if the thief wanted to lure your vice president away so he could head your company and shake things up. He could steal personnel information, find out what you’re paying your key employees, and easily top it with a better offer.
Now think about what it would be like to have all your operating manuals, client contact lists and purchase orders held captive beyond your reach unless you pay some unknown hacker from somewhere around the world thousands of dollars? That’s a new kind of online theft called “ransom,” and it’s happening more often every day.
In point of fact, you do have very valuable knowledge assets, whether you’re the owner of a local hardware store or the CEO of a regional meal delivery service. Don’t take a complacent stand when it comes to protecting your key assets – your knowledge assets.
How to Protect Your Knowledge Assets
You and your top management or board need to address the protection of your knowledge assets right away. In order to stop a potential breach, you need to know where the leaks can occur, then take immediate action.
Your employees are on the frontline of guarding your company’s knowledge assets. Careless employees may not be aware of the threat, or they may be nonchalant or reckless.
Regular meetings can be held to educate employees. Monitor employee use of personal devices to ensure they aren’t used for company business. Provide employees with locking and data scrambling protection on laptops used for company business that will leave the premises.
Non-Verified Cloud Providers
Your company’s cloud provider likely holds many or most of your company’s knowledge assets. Don’t entrust this data to just any company, and certainly don’t choose a cloud provider based on price. Make sure your cloud provider uses a minimum of a two-factor authentication, can provide you with all log-on information, and has protective firewalls in place to secure your cloud data from theft.
Just as you wouldn’t walk away from your business and leave the front door unlocked, don’t leave your knowledge assets unlocked. These two steps will help to safeguard your business against lawsuit and theft.