Legal Supplier

Digital information theft and the need for diligence

By Jennifer Pritchett, Associate Editor

With the increase of digital information theft that could result in a devastating loss, it’s critical for corporations, institutions and individuals to take steps to protect their information, says Jim Downs, founding partner and managing director of MKD International Inc.

“No one is immune from this,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“No matter who you are — an individual or a large corporation or institution — it’s important to protect your assets.”

MKD is often hired to conduct investigations into cases of digital theft, which refers to any situation involving someone gaining access to another person's digital information, Downs says.

“These cyber intrusions, as they are sometimes called, are difficult to trace to the perpetrators,” he says. “We have specialists who can look at the laptop or some other digital device, copy the hard drive and then analyze it to see whether someone has managed to get into the system.

"If you suspect someone has accessed your device or digital data system, you should have a qualified company look at it.”

Downs says while it can be difficult for someone to know if their phone, computer or other device has been compromised, often an indicator is if its battery suddenly seems to run out earlier than it should.

“If you see your phone going dead and it was just charged an hour or two before, it could be an indication that someone has accessed it, but there may be other reasons for this as well,” he says. “Hackers can access data on phones, computers and other devices.”

Downs says people have to be careful not to open emails or email attachments from people they don’t know because such messages could be the way a hacker gains access to the system.

“If you open it, you’ve unlocked the door to the hacker,” he says.

Corporations, institutions or even people who are in the midst of divorce proceedings can become a victim, Downs says.

“Ultimately, anyone can become a target,” he says. “If someone has accessed your system, it’s for a reason.

“For businesses, it can be proprietary data — such as a client list, contractual information or proprietary product details — that the perpetrator is after. Often, there is an internal component where somebody on the inside of the company is accessing the data. Businesses must have safeguards in place to ensure their proprietary information is protected.”

Companies and institutions have to be extremely careful about who has access to this type of information and how they set up access controls, Downs says.

“Some businesses will change the system passwords every 30 days to mitigate this type of risk,” he says. “Companies don’t want their competitors to have this data because it could weaken their position in the marketplace.”

Most of the time, the theft of digital information from businesses is motivated by monetary gain, Downs says, while there may be other motives for institutions and individuals who are targeted.

“For individuals, it could be domestic related, where an ex-spouse is trying to access financial or personal information,” he says.

“No matter what the motivation or who the target is, these cases come down to the theft of information that could be used against the owner of that information or for monetary reasons.”

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