Industrial Espionage

Pssst . . . Wanna Buy Some Data?

Who says industrial espionage is a relatively new thing? Man has always recognized technology as a means to gain power over another, so they guarded their secrets carefully. Alchemists of the medieval period all had their secret notebooks full of coded lists ingredients and amounts that pointed toward the synthesis of gold. In our modern world, industrial espionage is rampant. Information can be stolen by casual employees looking into databases, to hackers brute-forcing the company server, to hired teams of burglars, to exploration of dumpsters behind company fences.

[the following snippet is from a recent article in Electronic 

Messaging News, Volume 10, Number 2, January 21, 1998]



Corporate E-mail is sending tremors throughout the business sector as employees scream for privacy rights and employers shield themselves from liability lawsuits.

Companies also worry that proprietary information could leak out at thebclick of one key.

New York-based American Management Association found that 14.9 percent of 31,906 surveyed organizations store and review electronic messages.

Arlington, Va.-based American Society for Industrial Security estimates that intellectual property theft costs corporate America $24 billion annually. Approximately 74 percent of those security breaches happen on the inside.

Still A Resistant Market

But E-mail packages that aid administrators with E-mail surveillance are being received with mixed emotions. On the one hand, employees feel their privacy is being invaded , prompting them to coin the products "censorware."

On the other hand, proponents of the technology feel surveillance products make E-mail systems secure for employees and employers alike, weeding out inappropriate language and content that may be threatening to an enterprise.

"In many instances, the joke is being circulated by a supervisor - if [the enterprise] is using software - the message is caught before it is ever delivered," says Michael Overly, an attorney with Los Angeles- based Foley and Lardner, a law firm. "If done well, it takes the employee out of the loop, and no one has to step out and complain about a joke while everyone else is chortling about it in the halls. are starting to see the value in that - it's not just an issue of employee privacy. They benefit from these systems."

Such scenarios paint a believeable vision of the dark future in which the government has reduced its size. Instead, huge, powerful megacorps battle for power, using any means possible to get ahead of their competitors. Like in Snowcrash, the Mafia could be involved in a very public way. For example, the Russian Mafia, which openly perpetrates crime. You probably won't be able to read the page, but the Russian Mafia has a webpage. I'm not sure or not if this is completely real, a spoof, or what, but the site is located in Russia! It was also discovered it on a viable links page, so it's up to you to determine its validity. Click here.

The power of information. It seems that the U.S. is a bit naive when it comes to industrial espionage. Other countries, such as Japan and France, are used to it.

"In Japan the underlying philosophy is, why spend 10 years and $1 billion on research and development when you can bribe a competitor's engineer for $1 million and get the same, if not better, results. In France, the philosophy is that while France and the US may be military allies, we're economic competitors. Meanwhile, South Korea recently intensified efforts to collect information from foreign companies for South Korean corporations - a fact discussed openly on South Korean television."

The future? An increased interest in intercepting data transmissions: cellular, fax, video. Nowadays it's a tedious process - far more complicated than the cliche of cutting into a wire and "hooking a monitor up to it." An increased use in censorship software in corporations - a program that looks for keywords and acts accordingly. An increased paranoia within corporations. Information is power, after all.