Pandemic cautions:

Protect company secrets

While working at home

By Ministerstvo zdravotnictví České republiky - www.mzcr.cz ([1]), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88116822The Covid-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges for both employers and employees.

According to US census data, about 5.2% of US workers completely worked at home in 2017.

According to a 2018 CNBC article, 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week.

Due to the pandemic, those numbers are ballooning. As Time reported,

Microsoft Teams, which lets workers video chat, message, and share documents, has seen a 500 percent uptick in the number of meetings, calls, and conferences over Teams in China since January 31.

As reported in The Atlantic,

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29 percent of Americans can work from home, including one in 20 service workers and more than half of information workers.

In many places, including California, workers have now been ordered to work from home when possible.

When physical and economic survival are at stake, protecting intellectual property (IP) may seem like a low priority. But this too shall pass, and there are some basic things employers can do to protect their IP while employees are working from home.

  1. Make clear what you consider a trade secret. Don’t just rely on the boilerplate in the NDA’s or employment agreements that your employees signed. If they’re working on sensitive information at home, make sure you communicate clearly how vital it is to protect it. For example, some types of information shouldn’t be displayed on laptop screens where roommates or others might see it.
  2. Send reminders. You may want to have a reminder about information security pop up every time employees log into the company network.
  3. Be aware of the FBI profile of the employees most likely to pose a threat of trade secret theft.
  4. Provide access to confidential and trade secret information only on an “as-needed” basis. Maintain logs of who is accessing sensitive data and check often for unauthorized use or odd patterns.
  5. Make sure employees are using home security measures, such as a password protected WiFi network.
  6. Even in this bring-your-own-device era, consider providing employees with company laptops that can be remotely locked or wiped if stolen or lost.

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