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What is Espionage?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Espionage is a form of intelligence gathering which involves active penetration of a location where sensitive data is stored. Technically, the term “espionage” is reserved specifically for the gathering of confidential information which will be used to benefit a rival nation, but many people use the term more generally to refer to any sort of clandestine information gathering effort, whether or not it involves rival countries. This form of spying tends to attract daring, aggressive individuals, as people must be bold, quick-thinking, and very intelligent to succeed in spying operations.

The primary distinction between espionage and other forms of intelligence gathering is that it involves actually accessing a site where information is held. There are a number of ways to accomplish this goal, from gaining employment as a legitimate member of an organization to breaking into a facility to steal information. In all cases, the spy must be able to quickly discern which information will be most relevant, and he or she needs tools to record and transmit the information.

Infiltration of organizations is one popular form of espionage, since it ensures a steady flow of information. For the person doing the infiltrating, of course, this can be very dangerous, but the reward is viewed to be worth the risks.

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Since espionage involves the removal of confidential and sensitive information, it is, by nature, clandestine. Many governments inform their spies that they are on their own once they manage to enter a facility with restricted information, and agents are given extensive training which allows them to move quickly and ideally without detection to get the information they need. Secret agents are also expected to conceal information about their movements, operations, and employers from other people.

Information obtained via espionage can be of vital importance. Espionage often reveals information about troop movements and other military matters, for example, and it can also shed light on the policies and plans of rival governments. Espionage isn't limited to governments at war with each other, either; even allies may spy on each other, because all nations are well aware that their partners tend to keep their cards close to their chests.

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Amphibious54
Post 3

@ PelesTears- aplenty discussed how corporate espionage occurs, but the weakest link in a business is not the information it makes public, but the way that it handles its private information. The best protection is to restrict access to sensitive information only to those who need access to it, control waste streams, and enforce document destruction policies, have employees sign non-disclosure agreements, and establish rules of how information is to be shared between employees, the media, and what can be posted online. It may even be wise to have a security consultant come in and audit your IT system for vulnerabilities. If data and sensitive information can make or break your business, make the protection of this information your top priority.

aplenty
Post 2

Corporate espionage is far from the cloak and dagger espionage tradecraft of the cold war, but it is in fact real and can cost companies dearly, especially research and development firms. Corporate espionage is in fact somewhat of an industry in itself, and has resulted in losses for a number of companies as well as embarrassment for those that were caught. There are entire firms that offer information-gathering services for other firms. As long as the firms and individuals engaged in corporate espionage do not commit fraud, have not broken laws, or signed a non-disclosure agreement, than they are not "stealing".

Corporate espionage is the taking of information regarding bid prices, product information, and other sensitive data. Often times this

information is taken in a manner that cannot be proven illegal. Thieves will scour public information data banks, pose as someone they are not over the phone, sort through a company's waste stream, even send people to go work for a company to gather information.

Companies do have to weigh their actions though, or it will cost them money and their reputation. VW had to pay GM $100 million for stealing vehicle plans, and P&G had to pay Unilever $10 million for stealing waste on their property in search of shampoo formulas.

PelesTears
Post 1

What is corporate espionage exactly, and how does a company prevent it? What are the techniques and things to look for if you suspect someone in your organization is stealing secrets? How do I protect against someone stealing my company’s secrets? I have a small start-up with an original idea, and I do not want to be vulnerable to theft of intellectual property.

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