U.S. firms are big target of corporate espionage
02, 1998-By Richard N. Velotta
Wiretaps on European commuters.
of documents on floppy disks and CD-ROMs left on laptops in hotel
Moles. Swallows. Ravens.
is the stuff of corporate espionage, the practice of spying on
companies to learn trade secrets and proprietary information.
this month, the FBI estimated that intellectual property losses
to U.S.-based corporations exceeded $300 billion in 1997 and that
spies from 23 countries are targeting American companies, especially
high-tech firms in Silicon Valley.
United States has a policy against spying on foreign firms and
governments, but a number of U.S. agencies acknowledge counterespionage
that isn't the emphasis of Las Vegas-based Global Intelligence
much of that is illegal in so many jurisdictions," said Peter
Maheu, one of the principals for the newly formed company. "We
lean toward prevention and prevention analysis, but there are
people more capable than we are at doing that."
survey by the American Society for Industrial Security last year
said there were more than 1,100 documented incidences of corporate
espionage reported in 1997.
FBI has a policy against disclosing which countries engage in
corporate spying in the United States. But an article by FBI agent
Edwin Fraumann appearing in the Public Administration Review,
published by the American Society for Public Administration, names
France, Germany, Israel, China, Russia and South Korea as the
a teacher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said French
intelligence spied on U.S. companies by wiretapping business people
flying on Air France between Paris and New York.
spying methods foreign countries use to steal information, according
to Fraumann: hacking into company computer systems, bugging offices,
capturing cellular phone calls, using prostitutes to blackmail
employees, bribing an employee or a supplier and planting moles
within a company, sometimes attractive men or women who form close
personal relationships with employees involved in top-secret projects.
In the world of corporate spies, attractive women are known as
"swallows" and men are "ravens."
"We can advise people on how to prevent it (corporate espionage)
from happening," said Maheu. "We also have the potential
to tell companies when a country is coming in to have a look at
"People in our business know that's been going on for some