What Is Corporate Espionage and How Does It Happen?

Most people have likely heard of the term corporate espionage and then quickly dismissed it as a plot point for some cheesy spy novel.  In reality, corporate espionage is quite real and affects businesses every single day.

As an example, counterfeiting is a massive issue across scores of different industries, and it often stems from intelligence gathered in the world of corporate espionage.

What Is It?

 Basically, corporate espionage refers to stealing data, information, records and trade secrets with the thought of using them, selling them or trading them.  Typically, the spies that take part in corporate espionage are helping give themselves or a third party a competitive advantage over the company that has been victimized.

And yes, corporate espionage is quite real and it happens within even the biggest international businesses.

How Does It Happen?

 In today’s high tech world, there are numerous ways an ex-employee or corporate spy could get his hands on top secret information.  Here are some of the more common and well-known methods.

· Taking confidential pages straight from the printer before the person who printed it has a chance to get over there and grab it.  Seems simplistic but it’s true.  Some companies equip the printer with a fingerprint scanner that won’t release the page until the proper finger is placed inside.

· Keyloggers basically record the keystrokes of any computer they are installed on and then email them to a predetermined email address.  This works great for anyone wanting to get a hold of all that confidential data that’s being entered into a corporate computer.

· Keylogging hardware is another option.  It used to be a separate box that was easy to spot, but now keylogger hardware comes right in the keyboard, so it is virtually undetectable.

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· Wireless networks have also become a haven for people interested in stealing sensitive information from a distance.  The rules of the game are constantly changing, as IT professionals try to keep up to the criminals, but it will probably always be an issue from here on in.

If an individual or business is really intent on getting their hands on another company’s proprietary information, there isn’t too much that will slow them down.  And once that information is in a competitor’s hands, they can start pecking away at profits in many different ways.

 Ways to Prevent It

 Considering corporate espionage is such a shady world full of uncertainties, there is definitely no ‘one way’ to prevent it from happening.  Instead, a cumulative effort is probably the better choice.  Here are some things you can do:

· Instruct all staff to lock doors and filing cabinets, locking doors and not leaving papers just lying around.

· Restricting access to certain areas of the building or office.

· Keep an eye on the comings and goings of all employees to determine if they have time or opportunity to save information on a flash drive before they go.

· Set up corporate procedures that make it easy for employees to report any suspicious behavior.

· Sign up with reputable paper shredding services.  Entrusting this task to your own employees still leaves the door open for taking documents.  Professional paper shredding services will destroy documents so they can never be recreated, and they will set up a system that holds security at the very top of the priority list.

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