The White House released this week a plan of action aimed at coordinating and improving the government efforts to protect trade secrets against foreign competitors.

The document follows numerous incidents in which China, Russia, South Korea and private organizations such as WikiLeaks have been accused of attempting to breach government and corporate organizations in an attempt to steal classified or sensitive information.

The strategy is the product of a collaborative effort and reflects the recommendations and input from various entities of the U.S. government, including the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Treasury, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the United States Trade Representative. This strategy reflects the research and reporting by the Departments of Commerce and Defense as well as the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive respectively.

The pace of change in information and communications technology is projected to increase, bringing additional pressures on maintaining both the secrecy and ownership of trade secrets. The sharing of resources through cloud computing will facilitate a workforce even more mobile than today. Technologies providing greater access to information anytime and anywhere will increasingly rely on the internet, and present new challenges to companies seeking to protect information transmitted by, or contained on, mobile devices. This mobility will contribute to a future in which the defense provided by national borders to trade secret theft is diminished. Technology, however, can also provide tools to prevent and combat theft of electronic information. Through new technology, companies can better determine when and where confidential information has been accessed, copied, distributed, destroyed, etc. Companies can also better monitor the source of information that was misappropriated; for example, digital watermarking can assist in identifying the source of information. The threat to U.S. business of economic espionage coordinated by foreign governments, as opposed to industrial espionage, is of particular concern. Such acts would not only deprive U.S. companies of their valuable information, often to the benefit of foreign competitors who may receive that information from the foreign government, but countering the vast intelligence resources that a foreign government can utilize for such purpose may be a particular challenge for individual companies.

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