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Intellectual Property Theft: A Plague Within The Manufacturing Industry

The digital transformation era ushered in emerging technologies, such as cloud computing, machine learning, intelligent automation, etc. As such, organizations across critical industries, including the manufacturing industry, pivoted their operational processes to align with the benefits associated with emerging technologies. However, this rapid evolution introduced cybersecurity risks, threats, and vulnerabilities that continue to compromise critical assets, thus resulting in pervasive Intellectual Property thefts worth Billions of Dollars.


In the era of heightened technological advancement, there are research and development efforts required to actualize the functionalities of new and improved products, services, and processes. Therefore, Intellectual Property (IP) consists of unique innovation that results in the creativity of patentable inventions, trade secrets, trademarks, etc.

For the manufacturing industry, IPs provide a competitive advantage that affords an organization the rights and privileges to benefit from the financial incentives related to the market’s response to innovation. Additionally, it helps to spur economic growth, especially within industries that are critical to National Security.

Unfortunately, IP theft continues to impose an annual loss of $300 – $600 Billion. IP theft has become a national security concern for the United States, as adversarial nation-states leverage cyberespionage tactics to deploy stealth robbery. As such, it is imperative that stakeholders are equipped with the knowledge and awareness required to defend against Intellectual Property compromises.

Alarming Chinese Interference – A Threat to IP (Intellectual Property)

The modus operandi of Chinese-sponsored threat actors is to exploit systems vulnerabilities, which allows them to gain unauthorized access into secure computing environments for the purpose of stealing sensitive trade secrets. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, stolen trade secrets from U.S. manufacturing companies are reverse engineered and used to erect competitive Chinese-based companies, thus disrupting U.S. products in the global market.

Below are some of the most recent statistics surrounding Intellectual Property thefts creating significant concern for U.S. companies:

Best Practices to Safeguard the Organizations against IP Theft

IP theft related to a manufacturing organization’s confidential information is no small risk, and trade secrets constitute 91% of all theft in manufacturing organizations. Hence, measures must be taken to ensure the organization’s IP assets are secure from cyber espionage and malicious actors’ hands. Here are some basic steps that a manufacturing organization can take to prevent IP theft to a great extent.

Foundational cybersecurity training programs should cover the following concepts:

  • Potential social engineering threats such as phishing and spoofing.
  • The consequences of a cyberattack, and dealing with the aftermath of an attack.
  • Organizational access control and password management.
  • Identification and response to security incidents.
In Conclusion

To effectively protect the research and development processes that result in IP assets within the manufacturing industry, companies must establish policies and procedures focused on safeguarding physical and electronic data in-use and/or data in storage. Therefore, appropriate privacy and security configuration must be applied to information assets on-premises and in the Cloud.

All in, manufacturing companies should consult with competent security and privacy policy specialists with proven expertise in the management of security policies, system processes, and business procedures that generate Intellectual Property assets.


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