Corporate Counter Espionage

Economic Espionage - Is a real threat to U.S. Corporations

A recent report by a U.S. government commission has concluded that economic espionage has cost American companies over $300 billion in lost intellectual property and competitive advantage.

"There's only two types of corporations - big corporations - in America. Those who have been hacked by the Chinese, or those who don't yet know they've been hacked by the Chinese," FBI Director James Comey.

The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1839, defines the term "economic espionage" as the theft or misappropriation of a trade secret with the intent or knowledge that the offense will benefit any foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent.

The idea of espionage has always carried a certain mystique, having grown its roots in the political and national defense spheres. Today, espionage must be taken seriously in the business arena as well.  The most critical asset of any organization is intellectual property. Unfortunately, this value is recognized by people, competitors and other nation states, making intellectual property and technology a top target for economic and industrial espionage. Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report for 2015 found that nearly 25% of cyber incidents were related to intellectual property theft, see 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report.

As stated by the former Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, General (retired) Keith Alexander, the ongoing theft of IP is “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” The greatest threat to robust security measures that protect this information is often the trusted insider - the Robert Hanssen or Edward Snowden - that is able to exploit information from within the company firewall.

Company secrets stolen by competitors are costly and can be lethal. LIQUID utilizes proprietary methods to protect business information, and determine the likelihood for trade secret leakage.  We use proven behavior and psychological analytics to effectively profile potential trusted insiders. 

One who engages in espionage, whether for a state or a commercial competitor, must have more than just a motivation to spy. Espionage requires an opportunity to betray, motivation to commit the crime, underlying character weaknesses and finally, a stressful trigger event to set things in motion.

"Understanding the psychological principals of corporate espionage helps our clients manage and detect  weaknesses in personality," says Christopher Donahue, Founding Partner of Liquid Communications.

The Inside Man - Conduct by Psychological Profile - Economic Espionage

"Common weaknesses of the 'inside man's personality' include, but are not limited to, greed, impulsivity, narcissism, feelings of entitlement, an arrogant attitude that the rules only apply to others, vindictiveness, alienation, paranoia, naiveté and thrill-seeking. People who have these types of weaknesses are not guaranteed to spy, however, individuals with these behavioral traits are at increased risk for maladaptive or counterproductive behavior in response to significant stressful life events. Likewise, serious personal problems are not necessarily indicators of misconduct. It is the combination of these factors which can lead to an individual’s decision to commit espionage," says Christopher Donahue, Founding Partner of Liquid.

The insider threat has become an umbrella term which can encompass anything from a malicious or disgruntled employee to unintentional misuse of computer systems or poor security practices which allow data breaches or leakage. An insider can be an employee, a business partner, a contractor or someone with authorized access.

For any company or national agency, the trusted insider represents the most dangerous threat. This is a person who, by virtue of their position, has the authorized access to authorized systems as a part of their daily duties but is using it to do unauthorized things. They know inside information and the secrets of the organization and are granted access to both physical locations and networks. They have access to and relationships with personnel at all levels of the organizations and know exactly how to cripple the organization or what keeps it afloat. They are the “spy in the worst possible place.”

  • We conduct internal investigations for clients to determine if a target (trusted insider) has been actively selling business secrets.
  • We create well-reasoned plans to protect conversations, privacy and intellectual assets.
  • We develop progressive education programs to encourage a business environment favorable to maintaining your market position and identifying those potentially engaged in corporate or industrial espionage.

Economic Espionage Consulting Areas:

  1. Management leadership to promote counterespionage efforts
  2. Employee education on information security, management, and workplace espionage
  3. Intellectual property safeguards including:
    • Written rules and enforcement
    • Legal enforcement
  4. Marketplace monitoring for violations
  5. Regularly scheduled audits
  6. Analysis to detect electronic spying while it is still in the intelligence gathering operations
  7. Audits to identify rogue devices and document compliance with applicable privacy laws
  8. Information security risk assessments
  9. Physical security and environmental control risk assessments
  10. Safeguards and proactive management of the counterespionage strategy
  11. Evaluation of employee reports of espionage suspicions, interviews and deception detection.
  12. Research and investigation of active espionage cases  

Always On.

We're always ready, day or night, to deliver the best strategic communication advice to your company or organization.

Good forecasting is accurate, timely and reliable. We get to the heart of what's at stake fast to help our clients predict important outcomes and see a fuller range of strategic options.

Contact Us.