As Russian Cyber Threats Grow, Securing Intellectual Property Must be an Urgent National Security, Economic Priority By Norman Willox

As the war in Ukraine intensifies and the risk of cyber-attacks from Russia grows, the Biden administration is urging businesses to step-up their cybersecurity efforts-both now and for the long-term. Among the administration’s recommendations for technology and software companies is to develop software on highly secure systems to “make it much harder for an intruder to jump from system to system and compromise a product or steal your intellectual property.” 

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This is an urgent imperative because in today’s fourth industrial revolution, ‘The Digital Age,’ all things produced digitally can be easily abused. This is because the laws of legitimate use and benefits of trademarks and patents have not kept pace, and the protections needed to secure our digital assets are not mature or in place everywhere. 

Securing and protecting intellectual property (IP) has always been critical for governments and businesses as it is an asset of tremendous value that is protected by law, both domestic and international. It is often so valuable that if stolen or abused it could destroy a business, and regularly creates national security risks. The challenges in protecting IP are many. 

First, the cost of digitization is becoming so mainstream that virtually anyone can participate. This means international criminal organizations can manipulate global boundaries and laws to exploit the theft and abuse of IP with virtually no consequences. With just one click, rogue actors can move your operation of stolen IP assets to a safe zone anywhere. Further, Nation States covered in the recent mass media can circumvent the governance of the Geneva Convention by exploiting traditional intelligence and military activities using advanced digital platforms.

Secondly, the protection of our digital assets are at even greater risk given the global instability caused in part by the growth of totalitarianism. Therefore, we must as a nation, industry and citizens become far more strategic in our decisions as to how to protect our intellectual property (voice, texts, images, documents, video, biometrics…) and utilize the tools that are focused on current and emergingthreats as it is already too late to worry about those of the past. 

Another challenge is that too many technologies are designed and built by incredibly smart developers who do not understand the threats and risks to our digital assets. Once developed, it is nearly impossible to go back and practically build in the security protection that is needed. Therefore, digital security has to be a most fundamental component to any digital technology and if not, it will be at much greater risk for abuse. With the theft, protection and recovery of IP at its most exposed time in history, thankfully, there are solutions. 

We need to protect our data with the most advanced encryption available and protect our networks with the highest defenses available including malware protection and education/training. Additionally, it is critical to protect mobile devices and browsers from intrusion using multi-factor authentication including biometrics, security keys and code authenticators are needed as well as secure device management and user privileges.  

To further protect our digital way of life, we have identified competitive digital technologies that the U.S. must advance faster than other nations (e.g., AI, Quantum Encryption, Nuclear Fusion Power, Semi-conductors, 5G, and Biotechnology). Advanced quantum encryption, in particular, is going to be critical to protect our files, conversations, videos, source code, etc.

Protecting intellectual property is much more than a security issue, it is also an economic one. Close to 30% of jobs in the US come from intellectual property intensive industries. Small businesses, in particular, are critical to our success as a nation, as they make up 90 percent of businesses in the United States, employ nearly half of America’s private sector workers, create two-thirds of new jobs, and bring opportunity at every corner. Inventions born in the garages of small towns can have just as much impact as those developed in high-tech labs.

Today, data breaches are far too commonplace. Insider abuse (criminals, spies, or bad actors) breach enterprise and mobile platforms at will. Artificial Intelligence platforms in particular allow for the rapid deployment and theft of IP on a global scale. And the costs are astronomical. Intellectual property theft costs the US $225 billion to $600 billion annuallyThe average cost of a data breach in the US is $8.64 million and the average cost to defend a patent lawsuit exceeds $3 million.

The bad guys will always follow the path of least resistance to obtain the highest reward at the lowest risk. As the cyber warfare battlefield continues to shift against the backdrop of rising geopolitical instability, the time has never been more urgent for companies to bolster their cyber defenses to protect one of their most important commodities-their digital data. 

Norman Willox

Norman Willox sits on the Board of Secured Communications. He is a cross-functional board and senior level executive who stands at the leading edge of the information and cyber risk analysis industry. With over thirty years of experience actively developing, managing, and spearheading initiatives to shape domestic and international policy, Mr. Willox has earned global recognition for his contributions to government, financial service, health care, law enforcement, insurance, and energy agencies worldwide

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