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There’s no question digital security is top of mind for, well, basically everyone. Whether it’s alleged Russian interference into the U.S. presidential election or Yahoo exposing a billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) passwords, security breaches are front page news all too often these days.

In light of these concerns, companies have resolved themselves to taking security far more seriously than ever before. Threat awareness is a huge aspect of protecting yourself and your company, and corporate defenders are getting better in that regard all the time. With the advent of simple yet powerful tools like multifactor authentication and password managers like LastPass, even digital security novices can ensure a high degree of security and peace of mind without a PhD in computer science or cybersecurity. That said, one of the biggest threats to your company and its future isn’t necessarily state sponsored cyberterrorists from Russia or corporate spies from your competitors. No, it can just as easily come from what should be your greatest asset — your employees.

While your company may well have a robust external threat protection protocol, do you also have as strong an internal security apparatus in place? Because it’s far easier for an employee to steal your data than it is for a nefarious actor to do the same. Even more valuable than data, per se, though? Intellectual property. And if you’re not protecting that, you could be in for a world of hurt.

One of the most high-profile versions of this story has come to the forefront recently: Google recently sued Uber for the use of self-driving technology that Google claims as both proprietary and quite literally stolen (the lead engineer for Otto has been accused of boosting 14,000 documents on his way out of Waymo, the company Google acquired for its self-driving tech and IP, as he was heading to Otto to build an autonomous truck fleet). Luckily for Google, the United States provides plaintiffs huge opportunities to sue for intellectual property infringement (should the court indeed find for Google/Waymo). That said, these types of breaches can be devastating for companies unprepared for the digital elements involved as well as those unable to mount a huge legal challenge against a perpetrator.

In this particular case, the reason the IP is so valuable is that the future of Uber (often valued north of $60 B) very well may ride on the outcome of this lawsuit.

Uber knows the future of its ride-sharing company rests not in the platform it built, but rather on the fleet of the future. One of the most expensive elements of the Uber equation are drivers. They are the most unpredictable element in the Uber equation, Uber has to share significant profits with them, and they definitely cannot maintain 24-hour uptime.

A self driving car (or fleet thereof) could very well solve all these problems.

If Uber transitions to an entirely autonomous fleet with better availabilities, more efficient algorithms, cheaper labor/upkeep, more uptime, etc., it could quite literally change modern transportation (at least in dense metropolitan areas); it might truly be possible to live entirely car free with no significant drop in quality of life.

The technology also could have wide-ranging applications and implications for trucking fleets too — if that entire part of the logistic chain were automated, it could change the game for freight in this country too. So, you can see how high the stakes are for breakthrough self-driving technology.

As such, with the stakes being that high, safeguarding your data from enemies both foreign and domestic, takes on added importance. You’re just as vulnerable to internal sabotage or espionage as you are to external threats — perhaps even more so. As such, it’s no longer enough to do a great job protecting yourself from intruders; you have to be just as vigilant protecting yourself from employees. And, if you’re not thinking in these terms, you could end up paying a pretty steep price for your oversight.

 

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