The saying “ignorance is bliss” is a tricky one. Certainly, if we are unaware of a threat, we cannot fear it, but that also means we cannot prepare for it. But, unfortunately, even when we are aware of a potential threat, we might not feel ready to deal with it head on. That seems to be the opinion of general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies who, according to a new survey from iThreat Cyber Group, are aware of potential cyber threats to their intellectual property, but are not as prepared for those threats as they could be.

Results of the study, which tabulated results from general counsel, deputy general counsel, business unit general counsel and other inside counsel , outlined several concerns that are top-of-mind for GCs. “The results were telling, but not surprising. They were very similar to what I expected to see,” says Jeff Bedser, founder and CEO of iThreat Cyber Group. “I expected respondents to be a little more confident with where their companies stood than what it turned out.” 

The study found that 88 percent of respondents were concerned with their ability to protect their intellectual property. This shows an acute awareness of the problem, namely that IP is vulnerable to cyber-attack, butthat awareness does not translate to preparation. Sixty-six percent of respondents indicated that their organization is only moderately prepared or not prepared for a significant attack. 

The two strands are related, says Bedser. “The concern comes from a level of awareness,” he explains. “They are saying ‘I don’t have time to consume information that might point out a problem to me.’ The simple reality is, there is more to know than a person possibly can.”

If iThreat had conducted this survey 10 years ago, he speculates, more respondents would have felt well prepared. Now, with high-profile data losses in companies like Target, in-house counsel for companies with significant resources have to believe they will be targeted and are concerned about vulnerabilities. As Bedser points out, they can only be prepared for threats they know about. 

“I can be prepared for the things I am aware of, and I can be addressing those issues,” says Bedser, “but there are threats that you cannot be aware of because no one knows about them.” This is frightening to many inside counsel, but once they start realizing that this is a risk they must take seriously, they can begin to look at steps to address these threats, both known and unknown.

Bedser says that, to him, the results of the survey raise specific questions, such as where awareness is more deficient, and if the gaps in security are because of budgetary reasons. He speculates that much of the data could vary based on size and scope of the companies involved.

What he does know is that these threats to intellectual property can result in major losses. Thus, he recommends that companies take a proactive stance, putting in place monitoring programs that can give advanced warning. “That proactivity can go a long way,” he says. “If you understand there is a threat and have a detailed analysis of how that threat could impact your business.” This could go a long way to protecting you from a threat saving you money and, in the long run, providing peace of mind. 

For more on the iThreat Cyber Group survey, click here.


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