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Laurent Signoret

Software Asset Management – Microsoft’s Answer to Cyberthreats

How secured are intellectual property rights in Georgia nowadays? Laurent Signoret, Central and Eastern Europe SAM & Compliance Director at Microsoft answers our questions. 

Development of new technologies, implementation of new services and solutions in business management, significant increase of information environment in which modern society work, requires from public and private sector to pay attention to the security of private information. The pattern of cyberthreats is constantly changing, which results in changing requirements to the methods and means of security as well. Given the above, Microsoft offers to the companies Software Asset Management to leverage cybersecurity risks.

How secured are intellectual property rights in Georgia nowadays, what means exist to defend from cyberthreats, what solutions may be the answer to the existing challenges, about this and many other important things we are going to talk to Laurent Signoret, Microsoft Software Asset Management and Compliance Lead for Central and Eastern Europe, who has recently been visiting Georgia. 

What is the purpose of your visit to Georgia?

I cover the Central and Eastern Europe region, which includes 33 countries and I try to visit them all. It’s not easy but I wanted to visit the Georgian team because I have never been here, and this is my first time in Georgia. It is important to see how the team is performing, meet customers, partners, press and see how Microsoft is progressing on the market. 

How secure is the intellectual property in the world including the countries like Georgia and what means exist to mount defense against cyber criminals?

There is a group of countries who are protecting intellectual property very well. For example, the countries of European Union have a very strong regulations, enforcement and protection. The North American market and some countries in Asia should be highlighted as well. I think Georgia’s positioning is good, but maybe the difference on Georgian market is between the regulation and how it is enforced within consumers, business, everywhere. So, there are some educational efforts to be made and I think that new generation is probably more understanding of those issues, because more jobs rely on content creation, using the internet and more and more people compete globally. So, I think Georgia in on a good path.

Digitalization is both a challenge and opportunity for the world. Do you think this process has increased the number of cyber-attacks?

Yes of course. Everything is digital now and every industry is kind of disrupted by digitalization. For example, tourism industry is disrupted by Airbnb, we saw taxi industry disrupted by Uber. Probably the next big industries that will be disrupted are banking system, health, and education.

You know, education system works will old-school way: going to the school with the books, preparing the homework… In 10 or 20 years all this will be disrupted by digitalization. So, there are lots of opportunities, changes happening already and of course many new risks appear because everything is interconnected online. Data is the center, the new oil and there are lots of people looking to steal the data, use it, take control of networks, penetrate passwords and banking system.

There was a big example of Equifax cyber-attack in US. The personal data of 140 million citizen was stolen and the most interesting thing in that case is that Equifax moved rapidly from victim to the bad guy because they didn’t protect the data well enough. Now people are thinking of suing them for not protecting their personal data. So yes, there are lots of opportunities but also the risks as well. Today 93% of the money is digital and only 7% coins and paper money and of course the bad guys go where the money is.

I think that cyber security is a top concern for all organizations and the answer of Microsoft is Software Asset Management because it puts you in the control seat.

In one of the interviews you said that the attractiveness of a country for investors is directly tied with protection of intellectual property. Do you think that intellectual property of investors is under threat?

When you want to invest in a country that you don’t know very well you look at several indicators: GDP per capita, corruption rate, economy growth rate and many things, including: “how my intellectual property is going to be protected in this market?” And you might choose the country which protects the intellectual property the best way. If you can’t protect your patents you might want to invest elsewhere.

Can you tell us your impression about Georgia in this field?

I think that in Georgia it is not a problem – the country is looking to EU regulations and that is the path of the country. The EU requires to comply to the Regulation of General Data Protection, which will be enforced on May 2018. EU is the first group of countries that imposed a very high set of regulation on privacy and security on itself.

You can say – we don’t really care, we are not the part of EU but that will be wrong because if you want to trade with EU countries you will need to comply with this regulation as well. Microsoft is the first IT provider which said it would commit to the EU regulation although Microsoft is an American based company.

What means should the private sector turn in order to resolve the issue and how important is the cooperation between public and private sectors?

To be stronger in this area, it needs a strong public-private partnership. On one side you see public sector which makes the regulations, rules, laws and then you have the people making the business on a free market that needs to be regulated. They need to understand each other.

I can give you a French example: in France there is a very strong culture of intellectual property protection which dates back to long time ago because of luxury industry. The first ones who went to the government saying, “you need to protect our brands and logos” was the luxury industry. They established the coalition of luxury goods and it grew to an alliance of private sector represented by Union des Fabricants, which is a private institution. Union des Fabricants talks directly to the government agency, which is transnational agency of cross ministries empowered to protect IP. Let’s say – if there is a ship coming from China and it is arriving in the port of France the custom can call to Union des Fabricants, which can also call to representative of any company to check the goods. We extended that to music industry, movie industry, software and that works very well.

The Georgian state agencies were using the pirate software. Has the situation changed during the last years?

Yes, it changed dramatically. The central government of Georgia now has an agreement with Microsoft which covers all software needs of Ministries and Municipalities. It has been almost 3 years now and Georgia is the first country in your region which obliged itself to use only licensed Microsoft software. So, you can’t say that Georgian government works with pirate software.