Intellectual Property Theft – Restricting Internal IT Involvement

If you read our previous article on Company owned Intellectual Property and infringement (link here) this article follows on from suspected infringement and how to ensure any evidence of data theft is preserved.

As infringement identification investigators we are often instructed in cases where infringement has been suspected and management or stakeholders have enlisted their internal IT technicians to search for evidence of such infringement and/or data theft.

Put simply – this should not be done!  Poking around can muddy the potential evidential trail of artefacts that the suspected infringer may have left.  In the past, IT Group has investigated cases where the IT department even utilised the suspected employee’s unique credentials creating a false evidential trail.

If you suspect any wrongdoing by an employee follow our guide below:

  • DO NOT attempt an internal investigation of any devices or personal computers;
  • Isolate equipment if possible so that no further activity takes place that might over-write crucial evidence;
  • Document any detail surrounding the suspicion (without accessing the suspected employee’s computer equipment) to provide to the investigative expert as background. Particularly, dates and times when suspicious activity may have taken place. These could be dates and times an employee was visually observed utilising unrecognised removable media and/or staying late for reasons unknown, or conversations had with other employees about their employment and future plans of progression;
  • Contact a digital forensic specialist such as IT Group who will make forensically sound copies of any digital material that should be investigated;
  • Ensure limited personnel are involved or made aware of the suspected infringement so as not to arouse any activity by the suspected employee that might encourage deletion of any evidence where wrongdoing has occurred.

Whilst IT Group can investigate company owned equipment in respect of investigating potential infringement activity upon instruction from an authorised company stakeholder, we cannot investigate employee personal devices without their consent or the required legal instruction.  If you suspect an employee has utilised personal media to copy data then you should seek legal assistance from an Intellectual Property Law specialist.