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Executives worry about trade secrets' vulnerability to cyber breaches

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Only about a third of the loss of confidential information resulting from a data breach, it is believed, would be covered by companies’ insurance programs, a new report says.

The survey of 603 corporate officials conducted in May focused on cyber security risk to firms’ “knowledge assets,” which can include trade secrets and corporate confidential information such as profiles of high-value customers, product design and pre-release financial reports.

The resulting report, “The Cybersecurity Risk to Knowledge Assets,” was issued Wednesday by Traverse City, Michigan-based Ponemon Institute L.L.C. and Atlanta-based law firm Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton L.L.P.

A total of 29% of the survey participants said they have cyber insurance, while 31% said they plan to obtain the coverage within the next 12 months.

Among other survey findings, 74% said it is likely their company had failed to detect a data breach involving the loss or theft of knowledge assets, while 60% said it is likely that one or more pieces of their company’s knowledge assets are now in the hands of a competitor.

The survey found that although 59% of respondents said a data breach involving high-value information assets would affect a company’s ability to continue as going concern, 53% said senior management is more concerned about a breach involving credit card information or Social Security numbers.

Among the recommendations in the report are having strong governance, strict safeguards for sharing knowledge assets with third parties, and a formal approach that is aligned with the information security strategy.