Corporate and Industrial Espionage
Industrial espionage industrial espionage has now been brought to an open space, and its debilitating consequences are evident – including in South Africa. In our country it is the covert and sometimes illegal practice of investigating competitors to gain a business advantage. The target of investigation might be a trade secret such as a proprietary product specification or formula, or information about business plans. In many cases, industrial spies are simply seeking any data that their organization can exploit to its advantage. For a long time, the cloak of secrecy enabled a host of countries and corporate entities to apply corporate espionage to increase competitiveness and catch up on innovation.
An industrial spy may be an insider threat, such as an individual who has gained employment with the company with the purpose of spying or a disgruntled employee who trades information for personal gain or revenge. Spies may also infiltrate through social engineering tactics, for example by tricking an employee into divulging privileged information. Studies conducted under the auspices of the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of South Africa for several years have found that industrial espionage in SA is on the rise
Spies sometimes physically breach the target organization and investigate the premises. In that case, a spy might search waste baskets or copy files or hard drives of unattended computers. Increasingly, the intrusion is through the corporate network. Typically, a targeted attack is conducted to gain initial network access and then an advanced persistent threat (APT) is carried out for continued data theft. An assessment of reported cases indicates the nature of industrial espionage is predominately an inter-organisational activity where rivals steal information from each other using intelligence craft. The capacity of cell phones to record and transmit can also be exploited by leaving a phone in a boardroom, for example, and monitoring a meeting remotely. Recording devices are also secreted in a variety of items including eyeglasses, pens and USB sticks.
Industrial espionage is distinct from competitive intelligence (CI), which is confined to the gathering of publicly available information.
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