Globe and Mail: Canada lacks law that defines, protects trade secrets

According to the Globe and Mail (Iain Marlow, 20 May 2015) the 32-count indictment against six Chinese nationals who allegedly used their positions to obtain intellectual property from universities and businesses in the U.S. and then take that knowledge home to China, would not be possible here: “Canadian observers say the 32 count indictment, which was unsealed late on Monday, highlights the prevalence and severity of industrial espionage in North America, and underscores the need for Canada to adopt more stringent laws. Canada has no dedicated act on trade secrets and economic espionage and has not successfully prosecuted a similar case, experts say.”

While it may be true that Canada lacks legislation around trade secrets, the same article recounts an anecdote that, I think, exemplifies a more important problem: “In 2012, a former Nortel Networks Corp. employee named Brian Shields told The Globe and Mail that Chinese hackers had been attacking the company for years, and may have contributed to the storied firm’s downfall. Mr. Shields, who worked at the Canadian telecom firm for 19 years and was a senior systems security adviser, said Nortel approached the RCMP in 2004 and turned all its evidence over, but received no help. Before that, however, a former senior member of Canada’s spy agency said it had approached Nortel with evidence of Chinese activity around the company, but was “brushed off” at a time management seemed preoccupied with booming telecom growth in China.” (emphasis mine)

Technology companies tend to not take their own intellectual property seriously enough.

I recently sat in on a presentation given by an FBI agent who specializes in IP theft. Phil point, throughout his presentation, was very clear: IP theft is not seen as a criminal activity by the countries that perpetrate it — China, Russia, Iran, … — but as a full-time job for professionals whose goals fit into five-year plans to forward the economy of their countries. Look at China’s plans for agriculture (increase production and decrease water usage and land surface used) and look where they go fish for their IP (recently, Potash). For telecommunications, they need to improve their networks, decrease noise, etc. It stands to reason they’d be interested in the kind of technology these six individuals allegedly stole.

It may be true that Canada lacks the necessary legislation, but Canadian business, like American business, lack the proper mind-set to counter IP theft: we’re not dealing with script kiddies in their mom’s basements, but with professionals who know the crafts, know the tools, know how to get around the defenses, and do not believe they’re doing anything wrong.

About rlc

Software Analyst in embedded systems and C++, C and VHDL developer, I specialize in security, communications protocols and time synchronization, and am interested in concurrency, generic meta-programming and functional programming and their practical applications. I take a pragmatic approach to project management, focusing on the management of risk and scope. I have over two decades of experience as a software professional and a background in science.
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