Corporate/industrial espionage has been a fact of business life since time immemorial, but as Adam Bernstein notes in his latest article for The Company Secretary’s Review ,”It’s just that modern technology has made the process so much simpler…[and]…firms that don’t understand what’s at risk are playing with fire.”
By its very nature corporate/industrial espionage, along with corporate spying, can be hard to define but typically involves the illegal or unethical use of trade secrets to achieve commercial advantage. Be it hard or otherwise to define cyber espionage is with us and an ever-growing threat. Ian Bremmer of Time Magazine has recently warned, “Among the world’s most powerful countries, each government knows that an attack on the critical infrastructure of another invites retaliation…[which is]…why most of the action in cyberspace among cyber sophisticated nations is focused on stealing secrets and intellectual property.”
In addition to attacks on intellectual property, corporate/industrial espionage targets more general aspects of online activity. Unethical reviews, be they fake negative reviews about a rivals products or fake positive reviews to establish an undeserved market position, are an obvious example. Less obvious would be utilising negative search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics to impact adversely on a competitors search engine rankings, the illegality of which is open to question. Indeed, firms looking to protect themselves by countering such threats can, without prior recourse to professional advice, make matters worse for themselves by inadvertently generating even more adverse negative publicity.
In summary Bernstein concludes,”Competition is natural, but all firms of all sizes need to be on their guard for abuse. They shouldn’t be misled into thinking that espionage is all highbrow and involves spying that 007 would be proud of…”. The world of spying today has a much more anonymous face.