The most successful companies all across the globe have one main thing in common; they have secrets. In business, people refer to this as proprietary information. While there are other secrets companies may hang on to that could prove detrimental if released, perhaps none holds greater value than the company’s trade secrets. This may range from recipes to software algorithms and product designs.
In the information age, it is now increasingly difficult for companies and even governments to preserve their privacy. One 2015, CNN article shared a wide range of instances where hackers broke into top-secret systems, not to look for credit card information or to steal money, but to extract and then publish sensitive information.
Note that even short-term secrets need protecting. If this gets into the wrong hands before the scheduled time, competitors could then use this data to preempt the company that put in all the original hard work. Forbes identifies the following as some of the many things that companies prefer to keep secret:
- Sales data
- Secret formulas
- Customer or client lists
Copyright protection often does not extend to include this information, so once it gets out there, there is little a company can do to get it back or restrict its use. Because of this, companies need to strengthen all available protections they may have. This includes legal protections, strengthening cybersecurity systems, restricting access to confidential information and providing confidentiality training to employees.
Remember that most trade secret protections tend to last only for as long as a business can keep that secret. It may be possible to pursue legal action against people who infiltrate a system, or even employees or vendors who leak information. However, once competitors get a hold of that information, there is no getting it back from them.