Economic espionage, two words that you won’t be expecting may be closer to home than you’d ever imagine. Sure you may have heard of it, but it does sound like something out of an action movie involving spies and secret agents doesn’t it? That’s where you are wrong. Today, economic espionage is a real threat that can target anyone. If your business is in an industry where protecting your intellectual property is key to success, then you are a target!
What is Economic Sabotage?
Trade secrets are every company’s most precious possession. It is what makes a business successful compared to the competition. Economic espionage occurs when these trade secrets are stolen or are knowingly misappropriated for the economic benefit of whoever else except the trade secret’s owner. Another definition is when a foreign agent, foreign government, or foreign instrumentality benefits from stealing the trade secret.
Cases of economic espionage that are involving a foreign government are very difficult to prove. No foreign country would admit to sending agents to steal business secrets from another country and oftentimes, this results to cases ending up as a case of theft of trade secrets.
Our neighbour, the USA launched a nationwide awareness campaign courtesy of the FBI following cases of a nearly successful economic espionage attempts.
The U.S. Situation
It is no secret that industries in the U.S. spend a good deal of money on product research and development compared to other countries in the world. Companies spare no resources and effort to come up with a truly unique process or product that can give them an edge in business. This is why it is such a blow when years of hard work gets stolen and is used to benefit a foreign country. The damages are catastrophic! Not only is there a loss of revenue, but there’s also loss of employment, lost investment, damaged reputation, interruption of production, and ultimately can lead to a company going out of business. For businesses with a huge operation, sometimes supporting and providing an entire community with livelihood, this loss can have a significant impact on the local and national economy!
The American economy loses billions of dollars annually to this national security risk. Theft attempts are becoming increasingly daring, with foreign competitors and adversaries using people posing as foreign investors, researchers, and head hunters to get what they want.
If you have time, you might want to take a look at FBI’s short film The Company Man. It shows that no one is safe these days. Whatever industry you are in, no matter how small or how big the size of your operations is, someone will want to get what’s yours. It only takes one minor slip up or a dishonest employee to lose everything you’ve worked so hard to attain.
Protecting Your Trade Secrets
What is happening in the U.S. is not an isolated case. This is happening all over the world and can happen to you too. There is no doubt that you’ve invested time and resources into developing your brand, your idea, or your product. You need to protect it.
Below are some of the FBI’s recommendations for protecting yourself from economic espionage:
- Acknowledge that there is a threat.
- Identify trade secrets and value them.
- Have a plan for safeguarding trade secrets and implement that plan.
- Limit access to trade secrets and make sure that physical trade secrets are secure.
- Have an ongoing security training for employees.
- Have a program for identifying insider threat.
- Report possible incidents to the proper authorities to be
Need help beefing up your business’ risk management plan or investigating possible cases of trade secrets theft? Contact us for a free initial consultation. You need the best private investigators in Toronto on your side. Act before it is too late!