Mitigating Intellectual Property Theft By State-Backed Threat Actors


September 13, 2022

Rising tensions between China and The West have further heightened concerns over the security of intellectual property within organisations. Here, Darkbeam explores activity from recent weeks and suggests steps a company can take to protect their IP against sophisticated attackers.

Whilst the threat of state-backed industrial espionage is not new, the accusations and discourse between Western countries and China over the past week have placed state-backed theft of intellectual property in the spotlight once more.

Notably, China's National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center issued a statement last week (Monday 5th September) accusing the NSA of a phishing campaign against Northwestern Polytechnical University. The University specialises in aviation, aerospace and navigation studies.

Last weekend (Sunday, September 11th) The Guardian reported that, following rejected license applications to the UK Government, Imperial College will close two major research centres which were sponsored by Chinese aerospace and defence companies. The centres’ projects included high-performance batteries, jet engine components and impact-resistant windshields for aircraft.

The centres will cease operations by the end of the year after the Government’s Export Control Joint Unit rejected two license applications related to their research. The ECJU oversees the sharing of sensitive research with international partners.

How companies can mitigate the threat of Intellectual Property theft

Where many aerospace companies benefit from strong internal security operations and data loss prevention tools, contextualising external threats allows for strategic decision making and resource allocation.

An external-facing Cyber Threat Intelligence capability provides two distinct benefits: 

  • Detailed, contextualised information regarding threats facing the company or wider industry; including attack methods, motives and levels of impact. This can be used to inform strategic risk management and inform the Business of its current threat landscape.

  • Continuous monitoring and assurance around the current level of actual exposure or compromise of infrastructure or assets, whether currently known or unknown by the business. 

Developed in collaboration with CISOs and security teams, Darkbeam's Cyber Threat Intelligence service prioritises timely, actionable intelligence over a ‘fire-hose’ approach of exposing a client’s internal teams to large amounts of unfiltered data.

Alerts can range from the discovery of breached material to emerging methods of attack in-use against competitors.

In achieving this, Darkbeam analysts individually assess all threats identified against a client by proprietary monitoring of various sources across the Dark, Deep and Clear Web. Not only does this allow a client’s internal team to focus their attention on credible threats, it provides the analyst with a wide context of trends across the industry which is shared with the client in regular briefing sessions.

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