Saturday, 18 May 2013

Using Computer Forensics to Investigate IP Theft

By Sid Venkatesan and Elizabeth McBride at LTN

Information technology advances have many salutary effects, allowing workplace flexibility and reduced IT spending. IT advances have also established a host of new intellectual property security issues stemming from data breaches, computer hacking, and theft of proprietary data by departing employees or consultants. These issues now affect companies large and small because all aspects of a company's intellectual assets are preserved electronically, and companies are increasingly relying on employees and independent contractors to access these assets remotely, 24 by 7.

When a valuable employee departs to a competitor, or leaves to start an unspecified "new venture," or even leaves for some "time off," an employer must be vigilant regarding the possibility that electronic copies of company trade secrets — such as confidential customer data, source code, business plans, or technical documents — may follow the former employee out the door. This "departing employee" scenario is probably the most common fact pattern that leads to trade secret litigation.

Companies are increasingly using computer forensics to investigate the who, what, when, where, and why of data theft by departing employees. "Computer forensics" in this context refers to the examination of digital devices, such as smartphones and laptops, and storage media, such as hard drives and thumb drives, in a forensically sound manner that preserves the contents and operating systems of these devices while extracting information regarding file creation, deletion, modification, and copying, and internet and software application usage, amongst other things. Though the field of computer forensics is continually evolving, computer forensic experts are playing an increasingly integral role in the trade secrets and business litigation landscape; it will not be long before litigants point to a company's failure to undertake forensic investigations as a lack of reasonable diligence that can bar a trade secrets claim.

So what should a company do when it learns that a newly departed employee has taken a prominent role at a competitor, or made suspicious statements, tweets, or blog posts? Read the rest of the article to see what a typical action plan could look like at > LTN LAW TECHNOLOGY NEWS