Saturday, October 11, 2014

Inside the Secret World of Corporate Espionage

Numbers on corporate espionage are hard to come by. The Germans recently estimated that they lose around $69 billion to foreign business spies every year, but—at best—that’s basically just a piece of well-informed speculation.

The main problem with getting an exact fix on these figures is that they’re impossible to prove, because the nature of espionage generally relies on keeping stuff secret. It’s difficult to track the exchange of information, for instance, when it involves murmuring something at the sauna, or handing over a USB stick in a multi-level parking garage. And like a rigged sports game or steroid usage, it’s not something we’re in the mood to wake up to until it’s 100 percent, incontrovertibly there—an arsenal of smoking guns right under our noses.

“[Worrying about corporate espionage] very quickly becomes a matter of paranoia,” says Crispin Sturrock, who’s been running WhiteRock—a firm of anti-espionage specialists—for more than 20 years. “There’s a very British tendency to want to shake it off. To say, ‘Oh, I must be being paranoid.’ And, of course, just to be paranoid doesn’t necessarily make you wrong.” (more)