Business Counterespionage Tip List – Part I
Business Counterespionage Premises
- Business is competitive.
- Not everyone plays by the rules.
- This is especially true during times of heated competition.
Business Counterespionage Tips
Trust your instincts.
If you feel there is an eavesdropping or espionage problem at work, or personally, take it seriously. This is not a normal thought. The thought would not have crossed your mind if everything were fine, something is wrong. It’s time for Business Counterespionage 101.
You never hear about successful eavesdropping or espionage attacks. You’re not supposed to. It’s a covert act. You only hear about failed espionage. This apparent quiet gives victims a false sense of security. Not only is information theft prevalent and invisible, it is also silent. Discovery relies heavily on the victim’s intuition and preparedness to handle the problem.
Spying is a common activity.
Due to the covert nature of spying, the exact extent of it is not known. We can use failed espionage attempts as a gauge, however. They reveal over and over again that the problem does exist. Also, the plethora of electronic surveillance equipment being openly sold on the Internet, in “spy shop” stores, and “executive toy” catalogs gives us a good indication of the magnitude of electronic eavesdropping.
Eavesdropping and espionage can cripple or kill a company.
Documented cases of eavesdropping and espionage have shown repeatedly that, left unchecked, they will eventually desiccate a bottom line, wipe out a competitive advantage, and leave a company a shell of its former self.
The law only protects those who protect themselves.
Companies can’t just wander into the court room crying, “They stole my business secrets” and expect help. They have to show the extraordinary business counterespionage steps taken (and maintained) to elevate their business information to business secret status.
You are expected to prevent espionage.
Information is like any other corporate asset. Management has a responsibility to protect it. Stockholders can claim negligence and hold company executives responsible if this asset is lost due to improper protection efforts. If you don’t have a business counterespionage strategy, get one soon.
Who are these snoops?
Snoops can be competitors, vendors, investigators, business intelligence consultants, colleagues vying for positions, overbearing bosses, suspicious partners, the press, labor negotiators, government agencies, activists, terrorists. The list is long.
Why would I be a target?
Money and power are the top two reasons behind illegal surveillance. If anything you say or write could increase wealth or influence for someone else, you are a target. Sex is a close third.
Is snooping common?
Yes. The news is full of stories about stolen information. In fact, many news stories themselves begin with leaks.
Can I protect myself?
Yes. Espionage is preventable. When you know the vulnerabilities, you can take the proper security precautions. Some spy tricks are very obvious, if you stop to think about it. Some are clever abuses of the new technology we live with every day. All are devastating. Time has shown that many of the same tricks are used successfully over and over again.
Prepare to fight back.
Presented, for your edification and elucidation—in no particular order…
Ten Business Counterespionage Tips
…competitors don’t want you to know.
1 – Trash Trawling
Dumpster diving, waste archaeology, or trashing, all refers to rifling garbage in an effort to cull valuable information. This is believed to be the number one method of business and personal espionage.
In and of itself, stealing garbage is legal. In 1988, the U. S. Supreme Court confirmed that there is no expectation of privacy or ownership once an item is left for garbage pickup.
Scraps of seemingly useless information are synergistically related. The counterespionage process is one of reducing the availability of these puzzle parts. Shredding all waste paper is a major step in the protection process.
Counterespionage tips to protect yourself from trash trawlers:
- Encourage the destruction of all waste paper.
- Purchase the appropriate shredders for your needs, but make sure it at least has crosscut capabilities.
- If you have a lot of computer paperwork and large volume waste, you need to use a central bulk shredder, or outside shredding service.
- Do not entrust wastepaper destruction to paper recycling vendors unless you can watch them shred. It is best to destroy it before recycling. Don’t forget: you also need shredders next to copiers and in the home offices of executives and associates.
- Snoops love it when confidential papers are saved in a bucket under the desk. Don’t allow this practice.
The big shredder mistake: Buying just one large shredder for everyone to use. Reason: Not everyone will use it.
Why? Some people are too busy to be bothered with going to the BIG shredder.
Top Shredding Business Counterespionage Tip:
Purchase several convenient desk-side crosscut shredders. This is one perk or status symbol that has a very positive payback.
Value Added Business Booster: Some organizations actually promote their extensive use of shredders to protect their clients’ privacy interests.
2 – Bugs, Taps & Video Zaps
Although most snooping involves other methods listed in this briefing, electronic surveillance is the most devastating spy trick there is. Very private – and irrefutable secrets – are the target of electronic surveillance attacks.
Common mistake… Saying, “Oh, I’m just being paranoid,” when you suspect electronic surveillance. Think… You wouldn’t be suspicious if everything were fine. Something is wrong.
Course of Action…
- Do not discuss your suspicions with others unless they have a real need to know.
- Do not discuss suspicions in suspected areas.
- Do not attempt a do-it-yourself solution.
- Do not waste money buying spybuster toys.
- Seek professional guidance without delay.
Contrary to what you see on television, in the movies or in catalogs, investigating illegal electronic surveillance is intensive work requiring expensive equipment and specialized knowledge. You should expect a professional sweep team to have about $250,000+ dollars invested in their instrumentation. Their personnel will have extensive experience in physical security, corporate investigations, communications electronics, and computer networks.
Hint: Be careful when checking the Internet for someone to assist you. The web is spidered with faceless websites and anonymous “experts.” Carefully vet who you will be trusting.
Counterespionage Tip: Get a referral from a security professional. Contact a corporate security director or professional security organization for a knowledgeable recommendation. Although hiring “the best” might be more costly initially, it will be worth the effort, and will save you time and money in the long run.
3 – The Drop-by Spies
Check – and photocopy – the credentials and work orders of anyone performing technical work in or around your offices. Double check. Verify the work was actually requested and is necessary. This includes:
- telecommunications technicians
- computer technicians
- office equipment repair persons
- paper recyclers
- cleaning crews
Have someone who represents your interests accompany visitors while they are on your property. If possible, have them complete their work during normal business hours. Outside contractors and unauthorized company employees should never be allowed to roam unescorted within areas containing sensitive information.
One professional snoop brags openly that any building can be entered at any time, simply by posing as the air conditioning / heating guy. His props include a clipboard with forms and an industrial thermometer. Optional: a 2-way radio and a hard hat. If challenged, he threatens not to come back for three weeks. Busy schedule, you know. No one wants responsibility for denying this guy entry.
More counterespionage tips…
- Check your locks and alarm system regularly. Make sure each component still operates as expected. It is surprising how many effective-looking broken locks and alarm sensors are relied upon for protection. Physical security hardware effectiveness decays with time.
- If key control has long since gone out of control, tackle the problem now. Change locks and set up a system which will work. Consider biometric access for high security areas.
- When seeking assistance with security matters, be sure to hire consultants who does not also sell products, and who will not accept remuneration from security solutions they recommend. Members of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants are signatories to a Code of Ethics which includes this provision. You can find their membership list here.
Continue reading the rest of the Top Ten list at Business Counterespionage Tips Competitors Don’t Want You to Know – Part II
Kevin D. Murray CPP, CISM, CFE, CDPSE is a business counterespionage consultant and TSCM specialist with over four decades of experience.
Murray Associates is an independent security consulting firm, providing eavesdropping detection and counterespionage services to business, government and at-risk individuals.
Headquartered in the New York metropolitan area, a Murray Associates team can assist you quickly, anywhere in the United States, and internationally.