The simplest meaning of espionage, or spying, is getting hold of secret or confidential information without the owner's permission. It can involve individuals or spy rings, either working for governments, companies or independent operations.
Also called industrial espionage, economic espionage, corporate espionage, corporate spying, or internal spying, it is carried out for commercial purposes such as investigating competitors to get a business advantage, trying to get hold of their trade secrets, business plans, marketing proposals, development plans, proprietary product specifications or formulas – the list goes on.
Why you need help with internal espionage
Espionage has been around for as long as business has. The methods have changed but the motivations are the same: to discover a rival’s secrets and what’s behind their success. As such, it involves people or other organisations doing everything they can to get their hands on a trade company’s secrets, client data and information, financial insights or marketing plans. If you are compromised and any information gets out, your reputation together with your relationship with shareholders, investors and customers could be seriously damaged.
Economic espionage is very hard to successfully prove and prosecute in a British Court of Law – consequently, the crime often goes unpunished. If your business secrets are being divulged to another party or by someone from within your premises you will need to react swiftly and decisively.
It might be a trusted employee, a dissatisfied worker, a visitor who ‘got lost trying to find the restroom’, a newly employed night cleaner, somebody who has legitimate access to your premises or someone who breaks in overnight. The wisest course of action is to get professional advice from a highly experienced team of private investigators, specialists used to gathering the precise type and quality evidence, in the correct format for an internal enquiry, which would also be legally permissible for the police or courts.
Pursuing and prosecuting industrial espionage becomes particularly complicated when a foreign agent is involved. The law on trade secrets and industrial espionage is different in every country and it is always difficult to hold foreign companies accountable. If the spy is acting on behalf of a large company or multi-national corporation with more financial and human resources than yours, it can cause the legal case to be protracted and drawn out with the ultimate goal of breaking your resolve, even breaking your finances.
In acts of industrial espionage between companies, malicious behaviour by an insider is commonplace. A competitor might be able to plant a ‘mole’ inside your company, someone who secretly gathers intelligence for their real employer. This person could even blackmail a colleague into carrying out malicious activity on their behalf – sometimes referred to as social engineering – which is much harder to detect than everyday hacking.
What does dealing with business espionage involve?
Business espionage risk assessments are essential when you want the most appropriate and comprehensive protection for your business. At Eagle View we will conduct a rigorous risk assessment to identify economic or industrial targets, whether they’re trade secrets or other kinds of desirable information.
This assessment lets us all discuss and ascertain the vulnerabilities in your defences. It helps us talk you through various scenarios and their possible consequences. We also establish your most valuable business assets, something that in itself makes it easier to work out who might want to steal them. If you are the victim of internal espionage, a risk assessment could make all the difference between working in an environment of perpetual suspicion and quietly tracking down the person or people responsible.
Next it is time to set up an effective security policy, something properly formalised and easy to enforce. We will advise you about how to prevent computer espionage and insider threats, including stopping people from sharing passwords and bringing devices from home into work.
Once you have a secure data access policy, you can be highly selective about who gets access to sensitive data. The principle of ‘least privilege’ is the way to go, forbidding access to data unless it is strictly necessary, and regulating the number of people who can access trade secrets and critical data.
Your IT infrastructure has to be safe, too. A secure perimeter around each network helps prevent economic espionage via hacking and malware, and you need everyday corporate cyber security software in place as the bare minimum.
We can also help with:
- Educating your employees about any potential threats faced by your business
- Briefing your staff about how to fulfil their role in maintaining good business security
- Conducting proper background checks on prospective new recruits before their recruitment
- Performing regular background checks on your current employees, especially those with access to trade secrets and sensitive data
- Creating a proper, robust termination procedure, essential because business espionage frequently happens in the last few weeks of a staff member’s employment with their company
- Barring ex-employees from returning to your premises after they’ve resigned, preventing all electronic and physical access from the moment they leave
Why partner with us to identify the truth?
Checking for espionage is a sensitive matter. If you do it yourself you could overlook important clues and let the guilty person slip through the net, or offending innocent employees and causing staff relationship problems.
You need experts to support you by identifying exactly what has been going on, when, where and how. Eagle View Investigations can provide you with the ultimate 360° service. We will conduct a risk assessment, perform background checks, establish a security policy, and install data security protection. Once the investigation and protection is completed, our company will present all our findings and evidence in a detailed report – laid out in a way that will satisfy the requirements of an industrial tribunal, unions, the police, the legal system and courts.
Let's talk about espionage in business
If you want to protect your company from internal espionage in the future or need to make sure it’s not going on while you are reading this right now, just give our experts a call at Eagle View and we will arrange a convenient time to meet you to discuss your concerns.