Risky Business: High-tech manufacturers are not protecting intellectual property

High-tech manufacturers routinely expose sensitive company information to potential pirates by collaborating with trading partners over nonsecure communication channels. Even worse, the vast majority of the industry’s managers realize the risks they are taking in this regard yet they do little to avoid them.

10/31/2007


High-tech manufacturers routinely expose sensitive company information to potential pirates by collaborating with trading partners over nonsecure communication channels. Even worse, the vast majority of the industry’s managers realize the risks they are taking in this regard yet they do little to avoid them.
These disturbing facts were uncovered in a recent survey of high-tech managers and executives conducted by Washington-based KRC Research on behalf of Microsoft .
The survey results were revealed at a gathering of high-tech industry experts—billed as a Global High Tech Summit —that Microsoft hosted in San Jose on October 25.
“The use of nonsecure communication tools [within the high-tech industry] is staggering,” said Tyler Bryson, general manager of the U.S. Manufacturing Industry Group at Microsoft. “Our hope is that this survey shines a light on a problem that has been plaguing the industry for years.”
KRC Research conducted the telephone survey
Based on their titles, respondents were classified as either business decision makers (BDM) or technology decision makers (TDM). Director of supply chain management would be a typical BDM title; TDM titles included IT manager or CIO.
While acknowledging concerns about security, the vast majority of survey respondents (95 percent of BDMs and 99 percent of TDMs) admitted that using the company email system to collaborate with customers and suppliers is
The survey also uncovered widespread use of noncompany communication tools for collaboration. The use of such tools breaks down as follows:




For those using these publicly available tools, employees reported communicating proprietary information such as:


Despite what appear to be lax business practices, 88 percent of BDMs and 99 percent of TDMs said the ability to manage users’ access to sensitive documents such as product plans and contract details would be valuable. In addition, the ability to encrypt email instant messages going to trading partners was seen as potentially valuable by 68 percent of BDMs and 74 percent of TDMs. Full survey results can be found at the Microsoft Web site.





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