“The Ulster Constabulary Know More About Us Than Our Own Mother’s.”
-Michael Collins

When we think of espionage we imagine James Bond, Jason Bourne or maybe Austin Powers.  In truth, the most accurate portrayal of the modern spy in literature may be John le Carré’s, George Smiley.  Smiley is the quintessential intelligence officer. He does everything. He recruit’s sources, conducts covert action, runs counterintelligence operations and most importantly, he writes intelligence reports.

Spying is often called the second oldest profession coming in directly behind… Selling. (Not what you were expecting?  Selling is the oldest profession in the world. “In the beginning,” Lucifer sold the apple wholesale to Eve who then sold it retail to Adam. That was expensive transaction.)

Traditional cloak and dagger spies with their tradecraft seem more suited to the two world wars or the cold war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries of the last century.  Today’s modern arsenal of technology allows us to capture secure communications via satellite 24/7 or send “smart” drones to ascertain friend or foe by a simple cell phone signal.   Then we have the super cyber hackers who bring down computer firewalls like the walls of Jericho. It would seem these technological advances would make human spying obsolete. Yet, traditional Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is, in fact, more prolific than ever, and they are targeting our nation’s most valuable secrets.

The threat is not just our traditional enemies passing U.S. secrets to foreign governments.  The corporate knowledge and technology that drive our economy is being stolen right out of our own backyard by foreign governments and corporations. They use our research and development, to patent and produce equipment that beats American companies in the global business arena.  Some of these nefarious actors send our controlled technologies overseas to build weapons designed to kill Americans and others.

This industrial espionage puts our national security at risk as they deliberately target economic intelligence in flourishing U.S. industries.  Historically, economic espionage has targeted defense-related and high-tech industries. But recent cases have shown that no industry, large or small, is immune to the threat. Any company with a proprietary product, design process, or idea can be targeted.  Financial firms are also seeing an increase in this type of activity. Any unprotected trade secret is vulnerable to theft by those who wish to illegally obtain innovations to increase their market share at a U.S. company’s expense.

So, what is Economic Espionage and Corporate Espionage?  The Economic Espionage Act (Title 18 U.S.C. §1831) states “whoever knowingly performs targeting or acquisition of trade secrets to knowingly benefit any foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent.”  In contrast, Corporate Espionage, A.K.A. the Theft of Trade Secrets (Title 18 U.S.C. Section 1832) points out that “whoever knowingly misappropriates trade secrets to benefit anyone other than the owner.” is guilty of espionage.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the responsible agency of the U.S. government for identifying and neutralizing ongoing national security threats from foreign intelligence services. They work with other U.S. Government departments (Defense, Energy, Commerce, etc.) regarding all industrial espionage activity that is directed against U.S. companies by both foreign and domestic competitors.  They also investigate domestic rivals as well.

You should expect aggressive intelligence collection from domestic and foreign business competitors who are only concerned with profit margins.  To them, patent theft, or copying a prototype are just another day on the job. They only want to keep up with competitors or better, to surpass a corporate rival.  You also need to be concerned with your colleagues from other foreign companies who might working with you on a joint project. The United States has allies, not friends.  They spy on us and we spy on them, plain and simple.  There’s a war going on in the global economic arena that is just as hostile as the battlefield.  Spying is a part of the competitor’s offense.

Industrial espionage was considered a normal way of doing business in the days before copyright and patent protection.  However, many companies still engage in the practice of espionage attempting to acquire trade secrets and business information by any means necessary.  More importantly, many of these foreign companies are subsidized by their governments intelligence services and defense ministry and they encourage their corporations to aggressively target their American competitors.  

Industrial espionage is a real threat, just as real as terrorism.  Industries in the United States spend more on research and development than any other country in the world. The amount of effort and resources put into developing a unique product or process that can provide an edge in the business world is not unsubstantial. When someone comes in and steals that edge, a company’s trade secrets, for the benefit of a foreign country or a foreign competitor, it hurts America. The damages could severely undermine the victimized company and include lost revenue, lost employment, damaged reputation loss of investment for research and development, interruption in production or even the company going out of business.

Here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area we have corporations in several major industries like aerospace, energy, technology, finance and medicine.  We also have one of the largest foreign student populations attending our local universities along with hundreds of visiting foreign professors.  We are located on a major crossroad of economic and corporate espionage operations and we need to pay attention to the threat.

We at Trident Response group would welcome an opportunity to visit with you and your company and discuss in more detail the threat from industrial espionage a well as the indicators and countermeasures one can put in place to defend your company’s corporate secrets.

“Spying Has Always Gone On, In Ancient Times, and Today.”
-Vladimir Putin