Opinion

How to keep it confidential in the cloud

There are some dodgy people in business aren’t there? Nothing is what it seems. If you’re invited to meet a headhunter and they pump you for information about your current job, there’s a good chance they’re using you to gather competitive intelligence for a client. That’s right, there’s no dream job. It’s a ruse to get you talking. Incredibly dishonest, but many IT companies use agencies to do just this.

And they say journalists are cynical!

While you describe your current role, they’re making notes about how many people are in your team, what your company’s plans are and how big your budget is. They’ll be selling that information to your rival, which commissioned the exercise in the first place.

For similar reasons, many tenders are a sham. The contract has already been decided. It went to a friend of that person who is asking you to pitch. So why are they asking 10 more firms to present their ideas? Because they want to hoover up all the intellectual capital that people are willing to share if they think they’re got a chance of winning some business. Ever wondered why they don’t show much interest or ask you many questions? The job’s already gone and now they’ve picked your pocket. Or to be more accurate, your brains. Nice! Yes, it’s a people business alright.

In the current market, there’s no shortage of people willing to pitch their ideas.  So plenty of people get exploited. Under the circumstances, the non-disclosure agreement that you signed is meaningless.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, cloud computing has catalysed the problem. Even honest companies (yes, they do exist) unwittingly leak information because the cloud tends to suck up all our ideas, then dump them elsewhere on the arid areas of the web.

So what do you do? There are a number of clever innovators looking for partners who want to help them solve this problem for their clients.

SealPath recognises that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are used to secure the confidentiality of information but that is then compromised when documents are shared by attachments to emails, or put into folders on Dropbox, SkyDrive or Sharepoint.

The system limits the amount partners are able to take away. Initially, you can set it up to stop people from saving, cutting, pasting, editing or even printing.  You might have given someone your document to read but, through fiendishly cunning coding, Sealpath allows you to control their access to it.

The document might not actually self destruct after the invited audience has had time to read it, but it does the next best thing and denies them permission. Once the relationship with the partner has finished, you can remove access to your documents. So even if it is adrift on a cloud, nobody can open it.

The internal threat from your own employees is worse. Most people steal company information when they leave or are dismissed, with 67% taking this information to a new job, according to a study by the Ponemon Institute last year.  They could have been stopped if their access to documents was turned off on the day they left, says Sealpath.

Another security option is from PitchMark, which recently launched a service that defends the intellectual property (IP) rights of agencies or individuals pitching ideas to client-side companies.

This web-based system defends IP rights through its digital platform. Creators can upload and date-stamp their concepts, creative ideas, designs or business plans before they present them to the client. The clients must join PitchMark as a sign of their commitment not to rip off their ideas.

After uploading their idea to PitchMark a company receives a certificate that is proof of the date and time on which the concept, idea or proposal was uploaded.

Another system, Yoshki, protects images and IP online by hosting the image and providing code embedded in a website. Uses won’t be able to right click on the images, but can access to the code - which can be withdrawn at any time if it's misused.

This was first published in November 2013

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