‘Knowledge asset’ risk comes into focus; nation-states a bigger concern

Larry Ponemon

The Second Annual Study on the Cybersecurity Risk to Knowledge Assets, produced in collaboration between Kilpatrick Townsend and Ponemon Institute, was done to see whether and in what ways organizations are beginning to focus on how they are safeguarding confidential information critical to the development, performance and marketing of their core businesses in a period of targeted attacks on these assets.

Ponemon Institute surveyed 634 IT security practitioners who are familiar and involved with their organization’s approach to managing knowledge assets. All organizations represented in this study have a program or set of activities for managing knowledge assets. The first study, Cybersecurity Risk to Knowledge Assets, was released in July 2016

Awareness of the risk to knowledge assets increases. More respondents acknowledge that their companies very likely failed to detect a breach involving knowledge assets (an increase from 74 percent of respondents in 2016 to 82 percent of respondents in this year’s research). Moreover, in this year’s research, 65 percent of respondents are aware that one or more pieces of the company’s knowledge assets are now in the hands of a competitor, an increase from 60 percent of respondents in the 2016 study.

The cost to recover from an attack against knowledge assets increases. The average total cost incurred by organizations represented in this research due to the loss, misuse or theft of knowledge assets over the past 12 months increased 26 percent from $5.4 million to $6.8 million.

Eighty-four percent of respondents state that the maximum loss their organizations could experience as a result of a material breach of knowledge assets is greater than $100 million as compared to 67 percent of respondents in 2016.

Actions taken that support the growing awareness of the risk to knowledge assets

Following are findings that illustrate how the growing awareness of the risk to knowledge assets is improving cybersecurity practices in many of the companies represented in this study.

  • Companies are making the protection of knowledge assets an integral part of their IT security strategy (68 percent of respondents vs. 62 percent of respondents in 2016).
  • Boards of directors are requiring assurances that knowledge assets are managed and safeguarded appropriately (58 percent of respondents vs. 50 percent of respondents in 2016).
  • Companies are addressing the risk of employee carelessness in the handling of knowledge assets. Specifically, training and awareness programs are focused on decreasing employee errors in the handling of sensitive and confidential information (73 percent of respondents) and confirming employees’ understanding and ability to apply what they learn to their work (68 percent of respondents).
  • Companies are adopting specific technologies designed to protect knowledge assets. The ones for which use is increasing most rapidly include big data analytics, identity management and authentication and SIEM.
  • There is a greater focus on assessing which knowledge assets are more difficult to secure and will require stricter safeguards for their protection. These are presentations, product/market information and private communications.
  • There is greater recognition that third party access to a company’s knowledge assets is a significant risk. As a result, more companies are requiring proof that the third party meets generally accepted security requirements (an increase from 31 percent of respondents in 2016 to 41 percent in this year’s study) and proof that the third party adheres to compliance mandates (an increase from 25 percent of respondents in 2016 to 34 percent in this year’s study).
  • Companies are aware that nation-state attackers are targeting their company’s knowledge assets (an increase from 50 percent to 61 percent in this year’s study) and 79 percent of respondents believe their companies’ trade secrets or knowledge assets are very valuable or valuable to a nation-state attacker.

To download the full study at Kilpatrick Townsend, click here 

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