IP Cyberattacks Expected to Rise


Fifty-eight percent of almost 3,000 participants say cyber thefts will increase in the coming year, while only 16.1% say otherwise.

The number of IP cyber thefts is expected to increase in the next 12 months, according to a recent poll by Deloitte. One in five respondents (20.1%) said they believe such a crime is likely to be an inside job.

Fifty-eight percent of approximately 2,900 business professionals, a vast majority of them in accounting and finance roles, said the number of successful or attempted cyber thefts will rise in the coming year. Only 16.1% said the frequency will decline or remain the same. Professionals in the power/utilities and telecom industries were the most pessimistic (68.8% each) about the prospects for increasing attacks.

“While many of us know — or have experienced firsthand — how a cyberattack can severely disrupt business, loss of an asset as critical as IP can be crippling for most organizations,” says Don Fancher, principal at Deloitte.

Although IP cyber theft is nothing new, IP theft often goes underreported, according to Deloitte. Because IP has relatively little direct impact on the public, companies hit by cyber thieves would rather keep their losses close to the vest.

And unlike the theft of hard-copy IP printed on paper files in traditional manila folders, the extent of cyberattacks can often be difficult to assess because the stolen property is merely a digital copy.

“Managing risk,” Fancher says, “often includes qualifying how loss of that IP would impact the business, preparing to identify and pursue adversaries, and building a defensible chain of data custody to counter future IP cyber-theft threats.”

Respondent to the Deloitte poll said the automotive industry (32.2%) is most at risk, followed by the oil and gas (27.2%) and real estate service industries (26.2%).

“Predicting IP data theft is tough, as adversaries don’t fit one specific mold,” said Adnan Amjad, a partner at Deloitte.

Although most respondents said they’re concerned about the threat of internal espionage, only 16.7% said employee access to their company’s intellectual property is “very limited” or on a need-to-know basis.

A successful defense starts with defining the critical assets, according to Deloitte. Other tips for keeping safe from cyber thieves include:

  • Validate any partners or suppliers involved in IP creation.
  • Evaluate whether exposing some IP in the public domain may make the organization subject to attack.
  • Consider whether the competitive landscape points to new cyber threats to IP protection.
  • Improve cyber resilience to manage brand impact and market position.

More than 2,500 professionals participated in Deloitte online poll, conducted in September. Poll respondents were from sectors including banking and securities (13.5%), technology (8.4%), investment management (6.1%), travel, hospitality and services (5.4%), insurance (5.1%) and retail/wholesale/distribution (5.0%).

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