Archive for ‘Economic Espionage’

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Walking the Line of Competitive Intelligence

by Kelly Klatt

In previous posts we have talked about how economic espionage effected Apple with their release of the iPhone 4 and some different ways to lower the risks of economic espionage.  A big part of running a business is gathering competitive intelligence on what other companies in your industry are doing, but at what point does competitive intelligence become economic espionage.  As we have said, the later is illegal and gathering competitive intelligence can become a federal offense that sends you to prison with fines.

Gathering competitive intelligence, if done by legal means like the internet, is OK if the information you are gathering is public.  Competitive intelligence doesn’t have to be information that is secret, there is a lot of information that is available to the public that no one is paying attention to.

So what is the difference that turns competitive intelligence into economic espionage?  There are two types of competitive information, material and non material.  Non material information doesn’t really fall into the realm of competitive intelligence. You can’t use non material competitive intelligence to enhance your business, or effect the business you are gathering competitive intelligence on.

Once you have determined that the competitive intelligence you are gathering is material, the part that makes it legal is whether the information is public or non public. You can determine this by checking the source of your competitive intelligence and then trying to verify the information from another source. If you can’t verify the information publicly, your competitive intelligence may fall under the jurisdiction of economic espionage.

We caution security consultants to warn their clients of the risks on both sides of this coin. If you are the company that is gathering the competitive intelligence, a wrong step can ruin the reputation of your company.  From the security side, a security advisor can build a plan for your company to protect the risks of competitive intelligence gathering and help you avoid the fallout that can occur from leaks in your castle walls.  While we hope that the world doesn’t become a place that needs intelligence protection for corporations, we feel its best to build protections up front to avoid the temptation.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Reducing the Risks of Economic Espionage

by Kelly Klatt

In 1996 the United States government made it a federal crime to gather trade secrets for economic benefits.  While economic espionage makes a great subject for movies, economic espionage is a real threat to businesses with secrets to keep. As we are sure you have heard, the recent events around Apple’s iPhone 4 are a perfect example of how economic espionage can hurt a business, especially one that everyone is watching.

Here is how the economic espionage unfolded: The world is watching waiting for any hint of a new iPhone and a prominent blog is trying to get the information.  Said blogger obtains information for pay, and releases it on their blog.  Once the information is leaked, it creates a snowball effect causing Apple to release a phone to market that isn’t properly tested and has antenna issues. This causes Apple millions of dollars in damage not only with advertising dollars, public relations and the cost of giving early adopters “bumpers” for their phone trying to save face. While this is economic espionage at its most extreme, most companies don’t even know that economic espionage is happening to them.

So how do you protect your company from economic espionage?  Security Consultants work with a company to identify risks for economic espionage, and you would be surprised how often security consultants find security risks in the most obvious places.

Thinking of economic espionage, most likely your idea is something influenced by Hollywood.  A hacker is hired to break in and steal sensitive data, but we find that most economic espionage leaks are people leaving an office door unlocked, or a key employee having one too many drinks at a bar and spilling sensitive data to a seemingly harmless patron.  “Desk top surveillance” is the classic and simplest cause of sensitive information loss.  This is where an unthinking holder of sensitive information, leaves documents on his desk at the end of the day and night time employees or cleaning crews have free access to this information.  The “Clear Desk” policy is the simplest defense against this oversight.   No one goes home before everything on their desk is securely locked away.

Today’s world is safer than ever, but we need to remain vigilant if we are going to protect sensitive economic data from the world’s top economic espionage experts. Just because something is against the law, unfortunately doesn’t mean people wont do it.