RATs, TRAPs, and Trade Secrets

43 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2015 Last revised: 22 Sep 2016

See all articles by Elizabeth A. Rowe

Elizabeth A. Rowe

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: September 17, 2015


Technology has facilitated both the amount of trade secrets that are now stored electronically, and the rise of cyber intrusions. Together, this has created a storm perfectly ripe for economic espionage. Cyber misappropriation from American companies is a growing concern. Cases involving unknown or anonymous offenders who may not be in the United States and who steal trade secrets using remote access tools (RATs) are especially problematic. What makes the problem urgent, elusive, and significant is that we do not appear to have any effective judicial or legislative tools with which to address it. This Article is the first to address and place trade secret misappropriation within the larger backdrop of cyber security.

The Article makes several novel contributions as it takes on this dilemma. First, it argues that systemic issues related to technology will continue to make legislative and judicial solutions suboptimal for cyber misappropriation. Second, it explores how the rhetoric of war has infiltrated the national discourse on cyber security and economic espionage, and draws comparisons to the War on Drugs from the 1980s. It then discusses the implications that this narrative might have on how companies view their obligation to protect trade secrets and other confidential information. Third, while considering the technological and human factors underlying cyber misappropriation, the Article introduces and coins the acronym TRAP for “technologically responsive active protection” to serve as a guiding principle to further refine the reasonable efforts requirement for the protection of trade secrets. It provides a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis into how a self-help and self-defense approach might allow companies to re-conceptualize their roles as part of their efforts to secure their trade secrets, and critically examines controversial active defense counterstrike techniques, such as hacking back, and their legal implications.

Keywords: trade secrets, cypersecurity, misappropriation, eonomic espionage, cfaa, cyberwar, hacking back, hackers, counterstrikes, small business, theft of trade secrets, intellectual property, foreign, china, war on drugs, remote access tools, reasonable efforts, protection, utsa, computer fraud, self help

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Rowe, Elizabeth A., RATs, TRAPs, and Trade Secrets (September 17, 2015). Boston College Law Review, Forthcoming, University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 16-34, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2662166 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2662166

Elizabeth A. Rowe (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.virginia.edu/faculty/profile/nfy9vk/3077792

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics