Intellectual property theft has gained mainstream attention in recent months, even sparking discussion in the latest round of presidential debates. While foreign adversaries and opportunistic cybercriminals attract the eyes of law enforcement agencies and concerned business managers, researchers from Verizon have suggested that disgruntled employees could pose a more immediate threat to intellectual property portfolios.
According to Verizon's 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, the vast majority of all public and private sector data breaches are still triggered by actors external to the organization. However, when restricting their analysis only to incidents involving the targeted theft of intellectual assets, researchers noticed a curious disparity. For this specific classification of data breach, internal stakeholders either acted independently or in collusion with outside actors to carry out 46 percent of these crimes.
"The financial services and public administration verticals account for two-thirds of the breaches in this [IP theft] dataset, while information/technology services and manufacturing split the remained," the Verizon report stated. "All in all, these findings support the notion that adversaries target IP as a shortcut to attaining some level of strategic, financial, technological or relative advantage."
Perpetrators of these incidents can have a wide range of motives, according to PC Magazine, ranging from being passed over for a promotion to simply seeking extra cash when times are tough. Nevertheless, encrypting sensitive data and establishing stronger and more consistent access control policies were seen as primary action items for organizations hoping to limit their susceptibility to such attacks.