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The corporate espionage threat

india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 14:32 IST

It was Ravana’s own brother Vibhishan who brought down his empire. And all it took to find Jesus was Judas. At this point in time, we may no longer care about mythology but technology has helped the cheat to stay alive. Here one tries to zoom in on the aspects of espionage affecting today's performers and tomorrow's leaders. This is not a tale of history but a reminder of when not to let your morals die.

Just what is it?
Corporate espionage is the act of spying or gaining control over a company's trade secrets. Corporate espionage is a threat to any business whose livelihood depends on information.

The information sought after could be client lists, personnel records, supplier agreements or even prototype for a new product. The information lost by the source company could spell disaster for them while the stealing company could reach the peak in just one deft shot.

How bad is it?
In 1999, Fortune 1,000 companies lost more than $45 billion from the theft of trade secrets, according to a survey by the American Society for Security and Price Waterhouse Coopers. Today, theft of trade secrets is estimated to be around $100 billion. Affected companies refuse to notify authorities out of a fear of consequent fall in stock prices.

Who does it?
Corporate Espionage spies can be put into two broad categories: Insiders and Outsiders. More often than not it is an insider who risks the entire company for trivial reasons like lack of loyalty, mischief, boredom and in most of the cases money. A frequently quoted statistic states that employees commit 85 per cent of corporate espionage crimes.

Most companies these days realise the threat of corporate espionage and take appropriate steps to curb the same. A special genre of agencies called Private Intelligence Agencies have come up in countries like the USA. These act on a specific plan, striking on the company's

vulnerabilities and finding the probable loopholes in the asset safeguarding security. Fortune 10 companies like GE, HP and Microsoft predict strict legal consequences in case an employee is found indulging in espionage of any sorts. Spells the GE handbook," Using any company information for your financial or personal benefits constitutes a violation of the company's policies." So, for all those of you looking forward to climbing the corporate ladder, this is a bad step that you must avoid.  

With inputs from