The recent unintended leak of Samsung’s confidential source code, when a staff member decided to use ChatGPT, should warn all New Zealand companies that their intellectual property is at risk when staff are allowed to use artificial intelligence unchecked.
Mark Presnell, the managing director of Auckland eCommerce integration company Convergence, said the incident underlines the potential perils of AI when used in a company setting.
“Every company offers a point of difference because that is core to the value they add. Using AI could compromise their differentiation.
“AI has seamlessly integrated into our daily work, providing solutions, speeding up processes, and aiding research. It’s a tool, much like the early mobile phones, meant to facilitate our efficiencies. However, as we once transitioned from company-monitored phone calls to personal mobiles in the workplace, we are now navigating a similar shift with AI. And with this shift comes a blurred boundary that puts our company’s most valuable assets, our intellectual property, at risk.”
Presnell said New Zealand companies are at a pivotal point.
“There’s a slow, creeping progression, and the boundary of what is inside and outside the business must be clarified. When employees unwittingly use AI to solve directly related problems, they put potentially the company, and by extension, their jobs, at risk.
The Samsung incident is a case in point. The internal staff, working on a new version of their core code, turned to AI for solutions, not realising that in doing so, they were publishing their source code to an open forum. This act inadvertently made Samsung’s software, which drives their hardware, available to the general public and, potentially, to cyber criminals.
“It is a stark reminder that in the digital age, our IP is only as secure as our awareness of the tools we use,” Presnell said.
In that context, how do we navigate this new landscape and protect our intellectual property?
1. Define Your Intellectual Property
Business owners must educate their teams on what constitutes the company’s IP and define what needs protection. This clarity is the first step in safeguarding your assets.
2. Establish AI Policies and Processes
Implementing robust AI policies and processes is imperative. This includes updating employment agreements to explicitly address the use of AI in conjunction with confidential information.
“You cannot trade the loss of IP for speed unless making a conscious decision to do that,” Presnell said.
3. Secure AI Applications:
Identify specific applications of AI in your business and build relevant security parameters around them. This might involve running AI platforms internally with controlled external communications.
“We are in an era of open doors, where the lines between professional and personal use of technology are blurred. The fascination with technology’s capabilities is wearing thin as we become increasingly aware of the potential threats posed by unchecked use.
“The longer we stay ignorant, the more potential for trouble.”
Presnell said New Zealand businesses should act now to secure their intellectual property and ensure that their digital tools do not become the backdoor through which they lose their most valuable assets.
For more information, visit https://convergence.co.nz/