Protecting Proprietary Information

Article excerpt

Few businesses realize that U.S. export laws apply to a wide range of products and technical information. Computer software, including off-the-- shelf commercial office programs, is in many cases subject to export controls, as are many other seemingly commercial items having a potential dual use.

The loss of proprietary advantage is an even larger danger. Increasing industrial espionage is forcing companies to find new ways to safeguard information from competitors. A recent U.K. report called France an intelligence threat similar to Russia-not for military secrets, but rather industrial espionage.

Businesses in many non-space, military, or high-tech industries may not realize they are at risk or that they have been victimized. Business plans, customer lists, technology, and other strategic assets are often lost or severely compromised without the company knowing it until long afterward.

To keep information from reaching the wrong hands, a company needs policies and procedures that cover the following areas:

* Exchange of technical data between the organization's U.S. and offshore subsidiaries or representative offices and personnel.

* Employees taking technical and business data (hard copy or electronic) home or downloading it remotely.

* Technical and business data that may be carried on laptop computers or downloaded remotely. …