Protecting your trade secrets helps defend our national security
by Andrew Jones
How much do you, your partners, or your clients invest in research and development? How well do you think the trade secrets that result from this R&D are protected from theft, either domestically or internationally?
Theft of a company’s trade secrets “could severely undermine the victim company, including lost revenue, lost employment, damaged reputation, lost investment for research and development, interruption in production — it could even result in the company going out of business,” according to this news story on the website FBI.gov.
But, “when a trade secret is stolen for the benefit of a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent,” the story continues, that’s called economic espionage, and “it’s a growing problem that costs the American economy billions of dollars annually and puts our national security at risk.”
How does the theft of trade secrets occur? What can a company do to prevent this from happening, either domestically or by a foreign entity?
That was the subject of a presentation by Judy Eide, Special Agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, last week at a monthly meeting of the ASIS Southern Connecticut Chapter at Boehringer Ingelheim’s Ridgefield facility.
“Special Agent Eide discussed the need to protect company trade secrets and how the FBI can help,” said Ron Coleman, Vice-Chair of the Chapter and National Account Executive at Data Management, Inc., which produces Visitor Pass Solutions. “She presented threats facing companies and the many strategies used to infiltrate and circumvent security measures.”
To illustrate the issue, Special Agent Eide presented a short film, “The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets.” Based on a true story, it dramatizes how one U.S. company was targeted by foreign actors and how that company worked with the FBI to resolve the problem and bring the perpetrators to justice. (Here is a link to the film’s trailer; you may watch the entire film here.)
How the thieves did it
In the film, some of the techniques that were used to illicitly acquire the company’s trade secrets included the following:
- Used social media to spot and assess potential recruits
- Attempted a joint venture
- Hired a headhunter to identify potential insiders
- Attempted cyber intrusion (via unprotected USB ports)
- Trespassed at the factory
- Bribery of employees
- Online job ads posted on popular job websites
How the company might have prevented it
These are some of the actions the victim company could have taken to strengthen its security program:
- Issued visitor badges, maintained visitor logs, and required escorted access at all times
- Not left computers unlocked while unattended
- Disabled USB drives and other removable media devices
- Kept gates locked and/or not left them unmonitored (including dumpsters)
- Created an easier and more anonymous reporting channel for employees
- Continually educated employees about the threats to the company’s trade secrets
- Restricted physical/electronic access to trade secrets and other proprietary information
“I would highly recommend viewing this movie,” said Ron, “as a way to increase your understanding of the challenges facing our manufacturing companies these days and the protections available from the FBI.”
Special Agent Judy Eide, pictured here with DMI rep and ASIS chapter vice-chair Ron Coleman, is a Private Sector Coordinator within the FBI’s Office of Private Sector, which helps to align the Bureau’s key related engagement programs, such as the Domestic Security Alliance Council and InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and the private sector.
What advice would you give to an organization that wants to better protect its trade secrets? Please feel free to comment below.
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Posted on 5/16/2017