Filling in the Data Leaks (Protecting your Personal Stuff)

Living Digitized

The electronic flow of data permeates the fibers of every business. Try to make a transaction without accessing the binary realm – bets are that even the cash register used to ring your favorite morning beverage is accessing electronic data. Today, business survival and success depends on immediate connectivity and data communication.

Living in a digitized world has altered modes of business communication as well. Shooting a quick email off with a pricing quote or sending an answer to a email query are just as commonplace as a client call. Email has evolved into the standard mass communications tool, whether it be message communications or as a document courier. According to Pew Internet Research a mere decade ago, just 15% of adults in the US went online, today that number has jumped to 63%(1).

“On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37% increase from the 52 million adults who were online on an average day in 2000”.(2)

The statistics show that the internet and email flood our very existence. A business enterprise can’t be effective or successful without accommodating its wired clientele. Email is now such an integral part of the work world that a USA Today survey found that given a choice between giving up morning coffee or the ability to use the internet at work, 52% chose coffee(3).

Your Unintentional Data Flow

It’s inevitable that some of yours and/or your company’s data will be transmitted outside the network or personal system. Sharing unprotected electronic documents will ultimately cost you and your business By putting your intellectual property at risk. Think of all the man-hours of work that go into making your enterprise a success: proprietary designs, financial statements, competitive research, and other sensitive documents are all at risk when sent out as an unprotected email attachment.

Leakage of confidential intellectual property can seriously threaten the viability of an incubating contract lead. Unfortunately, email and documents meant for a select group can easily and quickly enter the public sphere. Once released over email, the transmitting flood of data which was once between company and client can fall into the hands of competitors, sometimes even forwarded by potential clients to competitors. Do you want to give your competitors shortcuts to your clientele? Each unsupervised electronic transmittal will poke hole upon hole in a company’s financial fortification.

Who’s Looking at your “Personal Stuff?”

Who’s protecting your small business enterprise’s best interests against these in unintentional information leaks? Certainly not the government, when US President, George W. Bush voiced his bias against email in his address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, saying “I don’t email, however. And there’s a reason. I don’t want you reading my personal stuff.”(4) Nor does Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair and the rest of number 10 Downing Street trust the mass communication tool, instead opting to use sticky notes(5).

These are the drastic, archaic steps backwards those zealously phobic of the digital communications era have adopted. Do you see your business forgoing email for sticky notes? The likely answer is no, as your customers won’t be transitioning to the sticky note 2.0 platform.

A small business enterprise shouldn’t have to succumb to the paranoia of the few and uneducated. A business is most profitable when its channels of communication to its clients are open and accessible. Yet having these channels accessible also opens the flood gates of a small business’ proprietary information. Domestically, intellectual property theft was, according to the FBI, on the increase. In 2005, unauthorized distribution of digital information cost the average company $355,552, a two-fold increase from the 2004 rate of $168,529(6) With the growth of intellectual property theft, the government has allocated some resources to this issue.

In 2004 there were “with the support of Congress, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section [(CCIPS)] has grown from 22 attorneys to more than 35 attorneys over the past two years. Created in 1991, CCIPS attorneys prosecute intellectual property cases…[they also] develop relationships with international law enforcement agencies and foreign prosecutors to strengthen the global response to intellectual property theft. (7)” A total of 35 dedicated attorneys in the CCIPS in Washington, D.C. are defending U.S. intellectual property rights. Are these resources enough ample resources for the 17.6 million sole proprietorships in the United States(8)? When looking at the growth of dollars lost through intellectual property loss accelerating every year, using government as the sole solution does not seem to be the answer.

Preventing those leaks

Each time a small business entity shares confidential information such as price lists, legal documents, plans and proposals – its reputation and competitive advantage is at stake. The impact associated with a private email or attachment being accidentally or intentionally forwarded can be colossal.

From sole proprietorships to ventures of a hundred employees, the small business enterprise must be able to access the same resources of large scale enterprises. The power to share work without relinquishing creative and innovative control is an invaluable tool. Taking preventative steps by using security software allows small business enterprises to protect their right to profit from their own intellectual property. Securing files is the best means to plugging information leaks

Protection of intellectual property is imperative for success in business. Individuals and small companies need to protect their email and digital assets with the same confidence shared by their larger enterprise business counterparts. Becoming actively aware of your digital assets and its whereabouts allows the individual and small business enterprise to managing the flow of your digital data in a more productive manner than President Bush or Prime Minister Blair’s sticky note solution for their “personal stuff.”

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End Notes:

1.) Lee Rainie, John Horrigan p.59 Report: Internet Evolution, Chapter 4 “Internet: The Mainstreaming of Online Life.” Pew Internet Rearch 25 January 2005. http://www.pewinternet.org

2.) Ibid, 58.

3.) USA TODAY. McLean, Va.: Jul 14, 2005. B1.

4.) Bush, President George W., “Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention,” 14 April 2005. [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/04/20050414-4.html]

5.) 26 January 2004, [http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/8651.html]

6.) Gordon, Lawrence A., Martin P. Loeb, William Lucyshyn and Robert Richardson, “CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey” July 2005, http://www.cpppe.umd.edu, 15.

7.) Israelite, David M., Daniel J. Bryant, Brian D. Boyle, et.al, “Report Of The Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intelllectual Property,” U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Legal Policy, October 2004, http://www.usdoj.gov/olp/ip_task_force_report.pdf. 21.

8.) Buscher, Patricia, “Number of Small Businesses Continues to Grow (2002),” U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov

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