For any company or individual who is innovating, inventing or improving a product or service, or just trying to stay ahead of the game in a competitive market, one of the scariest things imaginable is something called “economic espionage.” According to FBI.gov, the crime is defined as: ‘Theft of trade secrets occurs when someone knowingly steals or misappropriates a trade secret for the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner. Similarly, economic espionage occurs when a trade secret is stolen for the benefit of a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent.”
Put simply, economic espionage occurs when someone steals plans, recipes or other knowledge from a firm. It can create a serious problem for a company that counts on innovation for future growth and economic success. After all, not only could your firm lose out on the benefits of introducing this new or improved product or service to the market, but your competition would gain the benefit as well. It doesn't always mean having a product or service copied, economic espionage can also occur when others learn more about the behind-the-scenes details of your company and how it runs on a day-to-day basis. Even the simplest information could give a competitor the leg up it needs to make a move on your market share.
How Economic Espionage Impacts Companies
There are many different times when espionage, such as bugging or wiretapping, could lead to economic impact against a company. A few of examples include:
Discovering trade secrets
Exploiting negotiation strategies
Uncovering new products in development
Getting inside information regarding mergers or takeovers
Learning financial or other private information
Finding details about legal cases
These are just SOME of the ways that an outside look at a company could hurt; there are certainly other ways this could make an impact too.
How Economic Espionage Can Destroy a Firm
Sadly, there are many cases where economic espionage led to the downfall of a company. One of the most visible cases involves former Canadian telecom Nortel. In the early 2000’s, the company seemed too big to fail, but by 2009, it went bankrupt and soon after announced that it would not attempt to remain in business.
First, the company had been “hacked” many years prior and vital passwords stolen. This may have led to losses long before anyone suspected a significant problem. However, many suspect that the most critical economic espionage activities occurred from Chinese competitors. The suspicion is that virtual, electronic and physical surveillance occurred that allowed competitors to identify secrets and bring products to market to compete directly with Nortel. Unfortunately, Nortel executives didn’t take note of the problems and invest in better security until it was too late to recover.
Nortel is not a one-of-a-kind case. Economic espionage occurs on a regular basis. Even the financial industry, one of the strongest with security precautions, has been hit. One recent case was filed in 2017 by Susquehanna International Group against one of its former employees. The case alleges that this engineer attempted to steal vital computer code that took years to develop. Luckily for the company, this individual was caught before any serious damage was done. Catching these criminal acts early on is a must to avoid serious long-term impact--such as which occurred in the Nortel case.
While there are many things you can do within the firm to prevent secrets from being released, there are countless ways that this information can leak. That’s why many companies are looking at Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) as a serious way to prevent the potential loss occurring as result of economic espionage.
How TSCM Works
Technical Surveillance Countermeasures can entail a number of steps. When you choose to let The Grafton Group manage your TSCM needs, we will perform several steps, including sweeps to detect electronic taps and bugs and finding any actual audio or video devices. We will also make recommendations to prevent any future loss of proprietary information. We are constantly updating and upgrading our equipment to help you feel confident about your security.
As you can see, economic espionage is a serious problem in 2018 and will continue to be in the future. If you’d like more information about TSCM and how The Grafton Group can protect your trade secrets and your firm in general, reach out to us today. We look forward to helping you grow without the risk of losing it all to a competitor or criminal.